In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
Last time, we spoke of the phenomenon of reflecting upon the ‘illah, or reason behind, the various ritual practices of Islam. For most Muslims, this is a positive experience, because as they reflect on ever more benefits, their resolve to keep up the ritual practice is strengthened. For others, however, this reflection is an attempt to rationalize and justify their abandonment of the ritual practice.
Thus, a person may say: “The ritual prayer is really a conversation between the believer and his or her Lord.” This is true. Consequently, the person concludes, since he or she “talks” to God each day, there is no need to pray five times a day. “That’s so 7th Century,” he or she may say. This same person may say: “Since the reason behind fasting is God consciousness, I do not need to fast because I am so conscious of God.” Or, he may say: “My wealth is already pure, thus I do not need to pay the 2.5% Zakah.”
This is “designer Islam,” and unlike Coca-Cola, it is not the real thing. That sort of reasoning simply does not make any sense. If someone either does not, or can not, keep up the ritual practice, he or she should not justify their actions by coming up with an “Islam Vista.” Islam does not need to be “updated,” although the thinking and practices of a great many Muslims does.
I know this to be the case because of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). He did, in fact, directly talk to God in the highest of heavens, where even the powerful Archangel Gabriel could not venture. In addition, God directly communicated to the Prophet (pbuh) through Gabriel over a period of 23 years. Yet, despite this, he (pbuh) never missed a ritual daily prayer. If anyone were to justify not having to pray because he “talks to God every day,” it would be the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Yet, the Prophet prayed five times a day like the rest of us.
There was no human being that walked this earth who was not more conscious of God than the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Yet, he still fasted the month of Ramadan. There was no one who was as generous as the Prophet (pbuh), yet he still paid Zakah when it was due upon him. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) even performed the pilgrimage just before he died.
If the Prophet (pbuh), who was the most God-conscious, generous, pure, and pious man ever to walk the earth, never failed to perform the ritual practices of Islam, how can we even think of trying to justify doing the same by inventing a modern-day “designer Islam”? Yet, admittedly, those who continue to practice Islam as the Prophet (pbuh) practiced the religion are a tiny minority today.
This is immaterial. In fact, to be in this minority is laudable, because, God said that this minority will be among the “forefront” on Judgment Day:
“And those in the forefront will precede: they will be the favorites in gardens of happiness, a number of the ancients, and a few of those of later times.” (56:10-14)
I don’t know about you, but I want to be among that “few.”