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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The First Step

Allah’s Greatest Gift

Brothers and sisters in Islam!

We all as Muslims sincerely believe that Islam is the greatest blessing that Allah has given us in this world. We find our hearts filled with gratitude to Him for including us in the Ummah of the Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace be on him, and bestowing upon us this unique blessing. Allah Himself describes Islam as His most invaluable gift to His servants:

‘Today I have perfected your deen way of life for you, and I have completed My blessing upon you, and I have willed that Islam be the Way for you’ (Al-Ma’idah 5:3).

To be truly grateful for this greatest favour, you must therefore render to Allah His due. If you do not do so, you are undoubtedly an ungrateful person. And what ingratitude can be worse than to forget what you owe to your God.

How can we, you may ask, render these dues? Since Allah has been gracious enough to include you in the Ummah of the Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace be on him, the best way of showing gratitude and there is no other way is to become totally committed followers of the Prophet. And, since He has made you a part of the Muslim Ummah, to become true Muslims. If you do not, the punishment for your ingratitude will be as great as the original gift was. May Allah save us all from this great punishment! Amin.

You will now ask: How can we become Muslims in the true sense of the word? This question I shall answer in considerable detail in my forthcoming addresses; but today I want to look at a point of fundamental importance, without which we cannot hope to discover true faith. This, you must understand, is the first essential step on your road to becoming a true Muslim.

Is Islam a Birthright?

But, first, think for a while: What does the word ‘Muslim’, which we all use so often, really mean? Can a person a Muslim simply because he is the son or grandson of a Muslim? Is a Muslim born a Muslim just as Malay’s son is Malay, or Chinese’s son is born Chinese, or an Indian’s son is born an Indian, or a Arab’s son is born Arab?

Are ‘Muslims’ a race, a nationality or a caste? Do Muslims belong to the Muslim Ummah like Indian belong to the Indian race? And, just as a Japanese is a Japanese because he is born in Japan, is a Muslim similarly a Muslim by being born in a Muslim country?

Your answer to these questions will surely be: No. A Muslim does not become truly a Muslim simply because he is born a Muslim. A Muslim is not a Muslim because he belongs to any particular race; he is a Muslim because he follows Islam. If he renounces Islam, he ceases to be a Muslim. Any person, whether a Malay or a Chinese, or an Indian, a white or a black, will, on accepting Islam, become a full member of the Muslim community; while a person born in a Muslim home may be expelled from the Muslim community if he gives up following Islam, even though he may be a descendant of the prophet, an Arab or a Malay.

Such will surely be your answer to my question. This establishes that the greatest gift of Allah which you enjoy that of being a Muslim is not something automatically inherited from your parents, which remains yours for life by right irrespective of your attitudes and behaviour. It is a gift which you must continually strive to deserve if you want to retain it; if you are indifferent to it, it may be taken away from you, God forbid.

No Mere Verbal Profession

You agree that we become Muslims only by accepting Islam. But what does acceptance of Islam mean? Does it mean that whoever makes a verbal profession ‘I am a Muslim’ or ‘I have accepted Islam’ becomes a true Muslim? Or does it mean that, just as a Malay worshipper may recite a few words of Quran without understanding them, a man who utters some Arabic phrases without knowing their meaning becomes a Muslim? What reply will you give to this question? You cannot, but answer that accepting Islam means that Muslims should consciously and deliberately accept what has been taught by the Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace be on him, and act accordingly. People who do not so behave are not Muslims in the true sense.

Adapted from “The Fundamentals of Islam : Abu A’la Maududi “

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