We have been thinking together about how we individual Muslims thrive when integrated within the intended God-conscious Straight-Path community. We continue where we left off.
To help us all live, communally, in harmony with our Lord, that is the ultimate purpose for us to belong, individually, to the Ummah. This ongoing association with other serious-minded Muslims is the means by which we can accomplish our completeness as Muslims. Once we have developed a commitment to be close to our Lord, then we must ask,
- “Just exactly how can we best facilitate our ideal Muslim character and community cooperation?”
- “Can we even hope to do better than what we are collectively doing just now?” What are we missing?”
- “Can we realistically expect to improve our lot as Muslims in this world?”
If we are to make progress, then we must do it together —in synchrony with our like-minded brethren— if we are going to achieve lasting results. To answer the first question in a nutshell: Together we are strong; we learn from and are encouraged by each other. We deal with the second and third questions later.
In a word, any individual would-be-submitter [muslim] to Allah, the Ultimate Reality, can enter upon —and remain within— an ideal attitude and habit of behavior. Even though any individual one of us is constantly challenged, he can be reinforced on “the Straight Path” [ṣirât al-mustaqîn] by his fellow Muslims, especiallly if we would each pair up with a Muslim soul-mate —on this more later.
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Staying on this Path is the perfect and uncorrupted goal for which we approach Allah five times a day, asking for His help and recognizing our inability —independently of Him —to find, and stick to, our trustworthy and true Way.
It is You [alone] we worship, and it is You [alone] we ask for help. Guide us along the straightway [ṣirât al-mustaqîn] —the way of those upon whom You have bestowed grace, not those upon whom there is wrath, nor those astray. [Sûrah Al-Fâtihah, 1:5-7]
Ask yourself: Do you actually want this moment-by-moment guidance from Allah, or has this supplication become a mere ritual devoid of willful intent? Mouthed but not heartfelt? Articulated but without attention to sincerely seeking the leading and enablement of your Creator?
Ritual practice and ritual acts are a means to an end; we must treat them with respect and use them properly as a spiritual life-giving, divinely-provided resource and practical instrument for reaching the goal of personal and community taqwa. Taqwa is a key Islamic term, encompassing a God-consciousness which makes us actually “fear” to measure up to what our Lord wants in us—through our willing cooperation and His help. Historically, the Islamic Ummah has fed and nourished the hopes of an increasing number of believers as they would find satisfaction in the Way of Muhammad and as they would reach for closeness to Allah. With our committment and Allah’s help, this Ummah can do so again.
Traveling this Straight Way, we are enrolled in an ongoing “distance-learning” course of life-lessons. The closer we stick to the ways and means of this program—already divinely set out for us…
Today have I perfected your religious law for you, and have bestowed upon you the full measure of My blessings, and willed that self-surrender unto Me shall be your religion. [Sûrah Al-Mâ’idah, 5:3c]
… the closer we are to accepting our Lord’s standing invitation to be mentored by Him and His prophetic spokesmen.
For best results, we need to bring our families and colleagues along with us in this holy venture. If that is not possible at any given moment, then we need to join forces —at that moment and without waiting for what we judge to be a better or more promising and perfect situation— we must join forces with others who are like-minded, wherever we find them. Frequent gatherings with our fellow Muslims strengthen our bonds of brotherhood and please our Lord:
Mu’awiyah came out to the Masjid and said: “What has caused you to gather for this sitting.” They said: “We gathered so that we may remember Allah.” He said, “By Allah, nothing caused you to gather for this sitting except for that?” They said, “By Allah, nothing caused us to gather for this sitting except for that.”
He [Mu’awiyyah] said: “Indeed, I did not ask you ‘out of suspicion,’ for there was no one in the position I was in, who narrates fewer Ahadith from the Messenger of Allah than me:
“Indeed, the Messenger of Allah came out upon a circle of his Companions and said: ‘What has caused you to gather for this sitting?’ They said: ‘We have gathered for this sitting to remember Allah, and praise Him for His having guided us to Islam —and for his having bestowed blessings upon us.’ So he said: ‘By Allah, nothing caused you to gather for this sitting except for that?’ He said: ‘Indeed, I did not ask you out of suspicion; verily Jibra’il came to me and informed me that Allah boasts of you to the angels.’” (Tirmidhi, 3379)
Even those who are visitors among us are blessed by seeking Allah’s help in our gatherings.
Narrated Abu Huraira that Allah’s Apostle said,
“Allah has some angels who look for those who celebrate the praises of Allah on the roads and paths. And when they find some people celebrating the praises of Allah, they call each other, saying, ‘Come to the object of your pursuit!’ ” He added, “Then the angels encircle them with their wings up to the sky of the world.”
He added, “[After those people have celebrated the praises [remembrance, dhikr] of Allah, and the angels have gone back], their Lord asks them [those angels]—though He knows better than they [do], ‘What do My slaves say?’ The angels reply, ‘They say: Subhan Allah, Allahu Akbar, and Alham-du-li l-lah. Allah then says ‘Did they see Me?’ The angels reply, ‘No! By Allah, they didn’t see You.’ Allah says, How would it have been if they would see Me?’ The angels reply, ‘If they saw You, they would worship You more devoutly and celebrate Your Glory more deeply, and declare more often Your remoteness from any resemblance to anything.’
… Allah says (to the angels), ‘What do they ask from Me?’ The angels reply, ‘They ask You for Paradise.’ Allah says (to the angels), ‘Have they seen it?’ The angels say, ‘No! By Allah, O Lord! They have not seen it.’ Allah says, How would it be if they had seen it [Paradise]?’ The angels say, ‘If they would see it, they would have greater covetousness for it and would seek it with greater zeal and would have greater desire for it.’
Allah says, ‘From what do they seek refuge?’ The angels reply, ‘They seek refuge from the (Hell) Fire.’ Allah says, ‘Have they seen it?’ The angels say, ‘No! By Allah, O Lord! They have not seen it.’ Allah says, How would it be if they had seen it?’ The angels say, ‘If they would see it they would flee from it in headlong flight and would have extreme fear of it.’
Then Allah says, ‘I make you witnesses that I have forgiven them.”‘
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) added,
“One of the angels would say, ‘There was so-and-so amongst them, and he was not one of them [a believer], but he had just come [to them] for some need.’ Allah would say, ‘These [who celebrate the praises of Allah wherever they are] are those people whose companions will not be reduced to misery.’ (Bukhari 6408)
And, individuals who hold to the requirements of their faith, even when not in the community of devout believers but alone without communal support, are similarly supported by something even better.
Laila narrated from the one who freed her (Umm Amarah):
The Prophet said: “When those who are not fasting eat in the presence of the fasting person, the angels send Salat upon him [the fasting one].” (Tirmidhi 784)
…To be continued in Part 13