Becoming the Servants of the Most Merciful Series
As we said about the last verse, a true servant of the Merciful lives for something greater than his or her self.
To a practicing Muslim, it is greatly disturbing and disheartening when we know people who identify themselves as Muslim yet do not pray, fast, give their yearly obligatory alms (zakat), seek knowledge or support the message of God: the basic pillars of Islam. This group of people often justifies their lack of spiritual devotion and obedience with the claim that since they do not commit major sins, they are still good Muslims who love God. Is it their love for God that leads them to disobey Him? To not make any attempt to build a relationship with Him the way He decreed?
When we remind them of the many texts in our divinely preserved scripture that condemn those who don’t obey God, especially regarding prayer, they respond: “God willing I will start soon!” That statement is completely broken inside and out. God has decreed you to pray to Him and you are choosing to turn your back on that as though you know what’s better for you than Him! You see, in the secular liberal environment which shapes our thinking, people decide that God and His revelation are either not really the word of God or – worse in my opinion – that they are irrelevant to your life, while you still claim to believe in them. I once tried to convince some youth who did not pray by telling them, “Look, in your mind God is requiring you to take out just over an hour of your day to pray to Him and that’s difficult to you. The fact is, He is testing you by seeing if you will have the courage to put the One who created you, and provided you with everything you love, before yourself. By obligating you to pray, He is enveloping you in His Mercy and salvation.” The authentic hadith states, “The first thing a person will be judged upon on the Day of Resurrection will be his prayer. If it is good and right then the rest of his deeds will follow suit. If it (the prayer) was bad or empty then the rest of his deeds will follow suit.” (Albani)
There are others who murder, fornicate, drink alcohol, use drugs, etc. This group of Muslims are quite perplexing for their moral corruption. These people pray five times a day, fast in Ramadan and still commit major sins. They obviously have succumbed to the terrible disease which has afflicted the Muslim world: a cultural, ritualistic practice of Islam. God says in the Qur’an,
“…Establish the prayers for indeed the prayers prevent us from immorality and sin…” (Qur’an, 29:45)
Our early scholars’ commented that this verse also conveyed that those whose prayer did not prevent them from excessive immorality and major sin, their prayers are completely void of benefit. Let me clarify this meaning so we don’t have someone who is struggling with sins just give up their prayers. No doubt praying while sinning is better than not doing so, but we obviously aren’t understanding and having a sincere spiritual presence from the prayer if it doesn’t avert us from a sinful lifestyle. So, although rewarded by God, we are not benefitting in the larger scheme of things. All of the pillars of Islam are indeed that, pillars of the foundation upon which your relationship with God is built. If those pillars are weak or corrupt, then there can be no stable building of value built upon them.
Then we have the group who refer to themselves as “Muslims” yet they do not follow Islam at all; they lead a lifestyle full of sin and corruption. This group generally calls themselves Muslim because they were born into a Muslim family, and they want to respect the culture of their lineage. The problem with all of these groups is in understanding the basic meaning of the word “Muslim.” A Muslim is not an Arab; it is not someone from a Muslim country; it is not a cultural label. “Muslim” is an Arabic word that refers to a specific lifestyle – to submitting to the will of God. To claim the noble title of a Muslim, one must, at least, be dedicated to trying to fulfill that.
The concept is simple. God created us and provided us with everything we have, and potentially can have and be. He in return asks us to show our love, obedience and loyalty as an act of gratitude, to be worthy of Paradise. This life is a test where we must discipline ourselves to go against our ego and desires in order to fulfill the divine purpose – pleasing God. That is to embrace divine unity and live in the service of God. This brings us to the next trait of the true Servants of the Merciful:
“Those who when they are reminded of the verses of their Lord, do not respond as though they are deaf and blind.” (Qur’an, 25:73)
This verse assumes that the listener has verified that they are listening to the miracle of divine guidance. We teach our children about Islam with rules, regulations, and routine worship often void of meaning, but we do not set the foundation of proof, that certainly this is the final message of God and not a religion based on folklore. To fix this gap in faith and devotion, especially in the western world, we must build a strong platform for teaching our children about the miracles of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. This can be the physical miracles he performed, the miraculous nature of the Qur’an, the sublime beauty and humanly perfection of his character, the miraculous results of his propagation of Islam, or the miraculous outcomes of the wars they won.
We must continue to build that foundation in ourselves and our youth. It will compliment their knowledge with an environment conducive to nurturing an Islamic lifestyle, so when those who were brought up in this manner are reminded of scripture, they will respond like true Muslims, “We hear and we obey.” This is truly the statement of someone whose life is about something greater than themselves. Thus we say, Allahu Akbar! God is greatest.
We pray the Merciful bless us with the means by which we can become His servants. Ameen.