Islam is not just a religion of belief, but it is equally a religion of action. Without action and good works, one cannot be a Muslim. The two come together in ensuring the salvation of a person.
Bismillāhir Rahmānir Rahīm, As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh. Peace be upon you brothers and sisters.
Welcome back to the Muslim Converts Channel! Our last section has mostly been about the principles of faith in Islam. All of the usūl al-dīn we discussed had to do with centering and grounding a proper and correct religious worldview. This is important for it keeps our thoughts in line with the Truth and safeguards us from error.
But beliefs can only take us so far. Islam is not just a religion of beliefs, it is a religion of practice. Without practice, there is no Islam. In this lesson, we will overview the importance of works and practice in Islam. Religious practice in Islam is called ʿamāl.
BODY OF TEXT
And give good tidings to those who believe and do righteous deeds that they will have gardens [in Paradise] beneath which rivers flow. (Chapter 2, verse 25 of the Holy Qur’an)
One of the unfortunate calamities to befall religion during the Enlightenment period in the 18th century was having religion stripped of everything it had except for its beliefs. Indeed, this is how some forms of Protestant Christianity came about where they held that “belief” without works was sufficient for salvation.
There was, of course, a political reason why this happened. What we call the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) which offset a war between the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Church was really a war between the emerging modern nation state and the Catholic Church.
Over the centuries, the Catholic Church had consolidated most Western institutions and lands. Modern nation states were trying to grab these lands and institutions from the Church.
If you notice today, modern states control every aspect of your life, from how you give birth to how you die to how you raise and educate your children. As a new power, the emerging modern state wanted to take away everything the Church had. The war it waged against Catholicism was not just through rebellions and armed warfare, but it was also on ideological grounds.
Under the guise of the Protestant Reformation, and non-Protestant movements that were inspired by it, the new state argued that belief was the only thing that was needed in order to find salvation in the Hereafter. Belief in Christ was enough, one did not need to do good works and put faith into action to get into heaven.
The Enlightenment period that followed after this adopted this new view of religion as well. As the state attempted to isolate religion and clip it of its wings, all religion “was” was a set of beliefs and nothing more. By clipping its wings and privatizing it, the state made sure that religion could not interfere in the affairs of the government and the Capitalist elite. Action and works, on the other hand, was no longer to be determined by religion, but by the new, all-powerful, omnipresent State.
Although this view of a reduced religion might work with some forms of Christianity, or even some other religions, it is a hard sell for Islam.
First, Islam is not JUST a noun, it is a verb. This means that Islam is not just a belief, but an ongoing activity. Worship of God in Islam is a state of mind, and beliefs and actions are what produce states of mind. Being a Muslim is therefore not a private belief, but a constitutive activity in the world.
Now please pay attention. When we talk about putting faith into action in Islam, this is not an option. It is not a choice where one choses to do it or not, it is an obligation that is made directly by God upon humankind.
This is because accepting the shahāda is a covenant between man and God with a set of strict obligations and commandments to follow.
If a person has to abstain from pork or alcohol, and has to pray five times a day and fast during the holy month of Ramadan, he or she cannot exercise choice and decide not to do it. If one fails to do so, then he or she has disobeyed God, broken the covenant and fallen into a sinful state.
A sinful state is deviation from the Straight Path of Allah, and one will be held accountable before God on the Day of Judgment.
In fact, with some obligations, like the obligation to take care of one’s spouse, children, or not heeding prohibitions like abstaining from from alcohol, one may be punished in this world according to Islamic law.
From an outsider’s perspective, all of these may seem all too absolute and strict. But the idea of belief-in-action as a non-choice matter is for our own benefit and the benefit of the believing community. The objective of Islam is to reshape our souls and hearts; it is to purify them through proper discipline and rules.
Just like the kinds of foods we eat or the quality of exercises we do affect the health of our minds, foods and actions affect our hearts and souls. Pork, alcohol, fornication are not just breaches against God’s covenant, but they also destroy our spirits. Similarly, prayer, marriage, fasting, feeding the poor etc. help purify them.
Obligations also help maintain a healthy believing community, that is, a Muslim community. Islam establishes a series of obligations between husbands and wives, parents and children, the rich and the poor, humans and the environment, the powerful and the weak, Muslim and non-Muslim, all so that there may be a proper equilibrium.
A healthy community (both spiritually and materially) is where a healthy spiritual heart grows in. Where there is rampant corruption, injustice, and oppression, growing in faith becomes a much more difficult task.
A final note here must not be forgotten. Anyone can claim to believe in God. Anyone can profess faith. But how can true faith be proven? How can it be demonstrated? It is when God gives us a series of obligations to fulfill, which, when we fulfill them, shows our devotion to God.
It is in the realm of action that a real Muslim and a real believer stands out, not in the realm of ideas and concepts only! If ideas and concepts were all that mattered, then the Devil would be the best of all believers since he knows the truth better than all regular human beings!
As you recall, Satan refused to bow down to Adam after God ordered him to do so, and it is in this realm of action that Satan’s true faith (or lack thereof) was shown.
Until Next Time, Thank you for watching. As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh
Straight Path of Allah
The path of correct belief and action that lead to salvation
religious action, ritual
Can I be punished in the after life if I don’t perform my religious obligations?
What is one of the prime distinguishers between someone who is a real Muslim and someone who is not?
Putting belief into action.
Can I still be a Muslim if I don’t believe in religious obligations?
What is Islam?
Islam is a verb, and action; it means submission.
Is belief enough for salvation in Islam?
Belief must always translate into action. Without action, a person has no Islam.
good and evil
way of life
surrender to God
surrender to God’s commandments
belief & creed
God and His Justice
Kalima / Shahadat