TEXT OF LECTURE DELIVERED BY SAHEED OLUROTIMI TIMEHIN AT THE NATIONAL WORKSHOP OF THE MAJLIS ANSARULLAH NIGERIA ON SATURDAY 21ST MARCH, 2015 AT THE AHMADIYYA SETTLEMENT, OJOKORO, LAGOS
The topic of this discourse appears simple but in reality, it is very complex. It encompasses the totality of a believer’s experience in life. It is taken from Article 8 of the conditions of Baiat which goes thus:
That he/she shall hold faith, the honour of faith and the cause of Islam dearer than his/her life, wealth, honour, children, and all loved ones.
This article requires us to understand the true essence of faith and how to embrace it. Allah Himself declares in the Qur’an that He has bought the souls of the believers from them in exchange for al-Jannah (Q 2 v 112). In the light of this, the main thrust of the topic is to draw a mental atlas of the sojourn of a believer in his odyssey towards his Creator. His faith in Allah, which lies at the root of his actions, is to be brought under magnifying lens by putting it side by side with his actions and his affairs. When a believer makes a commitment to Allah that his faith shall be given precedence over every other affair, he is affirming the trans-worldly dimensions of his actions. He is saying that everything he does shall be dictated by his faith in Allah. He is asserting that neither his desires nor his aspirations would stand in the way of his expression of the dictates of his faith.
Explaining this situation, the Promised Messiah (as) says: Revival of Islam demands a ransom from us. What is it? It is us dying in this very path. This is the death upon which the life of Islam, the life of Muslims, and the manifestation of the Living God depend. This is exactly what is called Islam, and God now wants to revive this very Islam. To bring about this great undertaking, it is essential that a grand enterprise that would be effective in every aspect should be established by His own initiative. So, the Wise and Powerful God did exactly that by sending this humble one for the reformation of mankind. (Fat-he-Islam, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 3, pp. 10–12)
Whether we understand the cosmopolitan many-sidedness of the issue or not, we are challenged to make a brief excursion into the tortuous and slippery terrains of theology where theosophical theorizations and theological postulations becloud the horizon of people and prevent them from reaching the threshold of the Divine.
IMAN – FAITH – WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
The word Iman, which is commonly translated as faith, has been given different interpretations by various schools of theology. While some believe that it is the acceptance of truth by the heart alone, some see it as of the heart and the tongue. The dominant and the most comprehensive definition is a tripartite presentation of Iman as an acceptance by the heart, a proclamation by the tongue and a manifestation through action.
This latter position is more in line with the Prophetic teachings about faith. It maintains that the heart must accept the truth of God. It must proclaim this acceptance without ambiguity and the imports of this faith thus accepted and proclaimed, must be translated into action.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) is reported to have said:
Faith is divided into more than seventy parts. Its most important aspect is embedded in the saying, La ilaaha illa llah-there is no god except Allah, and its minimal level is to remove harmful objects from the road where people pass, and modesty is a part of faith.
The most important aspect of faith, according to the Holy Prophet, is to be found in the declaration- there is no god except Allah. This obviously does not mean that faith is guaranteed if one chants la ilaaha illa llah. It rather means that the essence of true faith is to accept that nothing is to be revered above Allah by whatever means and for whatever reason. Since the only cosmic bridge to our understanding of the Divine is Muhammad (saw), allegiance to him forms an integral part of faith.
A friend recently shared a story with me on whatsapp. It is narrated that a certain Imam wanted to prepare his Jum’ah sermon one day but could not think of any worthy topic. While he was busy brainstorming on what to do, his little daughter who was a mere toddler came and started disturbing him. He thought to himself “here I am, worried about my sermon for jum’ah tomorrow and here is she, looking for attention. I know what I’ll do”, he told himself. He took a large map of the world and tore it to shreds and asked the little girl to rearrange it with the hope that it would take several hours and that would give him enough time to prepare his sermon without any disturbance from the girl.. He was however shocked when the little girl brought back the map all arranged! “How did you do it”, he asked. “There was a picture of the Qur’an and the declaration – la ilaaha illa llahu Muhammad rasulullah behind the map and I knew that if I fixed the Qur’an, Allah and the Prophet(saw), I would fix the world”, she replied. This was all the Imam needed. His little daughter had inspired him! Put Allah, the Prophet and the Qur’an in their proper place and you would fix the world’s problems!
YOUR FAITH, YOUR SHIELD
Faith therefore underlies every action of the believer. Because Allah has purchased his life from him, he fights a battle within himself to put his faith first in everything. The Holy Prophet is reported to have said:
Whoever gives because of Allah, or abstains from giving, or loves, or dislikes, and these because of Allah! Such a person has perfected his faith. The history of world religions is replete with the tales of individuals who placed a high premium on their faith and refuse to allow any worldly vocation to distract their attention from service to their God. One of such individuals in the Abrahamic Faith Traditions was the Patriarch Prophet Ibrahim himself. The trial to which Allah put him was one of the greatest in the history of man’s interaction with the Divine. This was the supreme display of giving precedence to faith over all and this is the goal towards which every believer must strive.
The Promised Messiah(as) is reported to have said: Until man becomes a servant of Allah with sincerity and purity, it is hard to attain any rank. Allah the Almighty testifies about Ibrahim:
“That Ibrahim is a man who lived up to his word. To cleanse one’s heart in this manner, to fill it up with the love of Allah, to live according to the wishes of Allah, and to be an obedient servant whose desires are in perfect harmony with the desires of Allah, like a shadow”.
The word which Ibrahim kept was no other than his commitment to Allah when he declared: I have submitted to Allah, Lord of all the worlds. The nature of one’s submission to Allah is the main factor that aids in giving precedence to faith over all other affairs. A heart that truly submits to Allah will not wrestle with Allah over His injunctions. Whatever he does is a reflection of the Divine Will. Early companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad were ready examples.
Abu Musa al-Ash’ari (ra) reported: we were drinking in one of our drinking dens when I had an urge to see the Holy Prophet( saw). I therefore stood up and went to him. When I got there, the verse, ch. 5 v 92, where intoxicants were prohibited had just been revealed. I hurried back to my companions and recited the verse to them. Some of them had their cups containing alcohol close to their mouths; they had drunk a part, and a part still remained in the cups. They instantly stopped and threw out the one in their mouths saying: we have desisted, O our Lord, we have desisted O our Lord.
Similarly, at the time when sacrifices were demanded of them to rehabilitate their fellow Muslims who were refugees, the wealthy as well as the poor among them responded well. Describing them, Allah says in ch. 59 v 10 of the Qur’an:
And those who had established their home in this city before them and had accepted faith, love those who came to them for refuge and find not in their breast any desire for that which is given to the refugees, but prefer them to themselves, even though poverty be their own lot. And whosoever is freed of the covetousness of his own soul, it is these who will be successful.
The virtue of giving precedence to faith over worldly is mostly manifested at the time of trials and when sacrifices are demanded. How many times has a believer been asked to choose between his faith and material wealth? How many debilitating ailments has afflicted him and he is told the only cure is in idolatry? How many mouth watering offers and appointments have been tied to rejection of the truth? How many opportunities have slipped by, how many privileges have gone away, how many well deserved honour have been withheld, how many rights have been denied……the list is endless.
In order to develop the attitude of giving precedence to faith, a thorough understanding of the vanities of this world and its ephemeral nature is necessary. This is then entrenched in the heart by taqwa or God-consciousness and reinforced by the virtues of tawakkul (trust and confidence in Allah), amanah( sense of trust and responsibility) sabr (patience), shukr (gratitude) rajaa’ (hope), and yaqin (certainty). Such is reflected in the shepherd in the following incident.
Abdullah bn Dinaar reported: I traveled to Makkah with Umar bn Khattab during his khilafah and we camped somewhere on the way. Shortly after, a shepherd came along. Umar wanted to test the man’s fidelity, so he said to him: sell a sheep to me from the flock. The man replied: I am a servant and I have not been given such an authority. Umar said: Tell your master that a wolf has killed the sheepand the man replied: where then is Allah? How can I escape that All-Perceiving gaze? Umar’s eyes were filled with tears and he said: may these words be your ransom in the hereafter!
When a believer develops these, he will no doubt find it easy to give precedence to faith over all other affairs and he will become a winner in the game of life. What is life, we may ask? As old as we are, if I were to ask each one of us here to define life, we would have as many definitions as definers. This is because it is only the Author of life that can effectively define His creation. Listen to Him:
“Know that the life of this world is only a sport and a pastime, and an adornment, and (a source of) boasting among yourselves, and (of) rivalry in multiplying riches and children. (This Life is) Like a rain, the vegetation from which is pleasing to the tiller. Then it dries up and you see it turning yellow: then it becomes broken pieces (of straw). And in the Hereafter there is severe punishment, and (also) forgiveness from Allah and (His) pleasure. And the life of this world is nothing but temporary enjoyment of deceitful things”(Q57 v 21)
Similarly, He goes on to declare:
“Truly, this life of the world is but a temporary enjoyment; and the hereafter is certainly the home for a permanent stay” (Q40 v 40)
In the above verses, the Almighty Author of existence defines life. He qualifies life by putting it in apposition to the world. He calls it “hayat ud dunya”, life of this world or worldly life. This means that there is another life apart from this. He goes ahead to establish its transient and temporary nature. The parable of the rain and the vegetation is a beautiful allegorical depiction of this transitory phenomenon. As vegetations blossom and attract people, so does the life of man; and as withering of vegetations sets in, so does the life of man wither. The non-permanent nature of our earthly sojourn therefore presupposes the existence of a permanent abode and that is the Hereafter. To understand life is to understand one’s role in life and how to attain a lofty position in the Hereafter.
In life, most people assume that the sum total of their aspiration is to attain wealth, raise children and enjoy the comforts of life. They therefore boast concerning this. Allah says:
“And they say, ‘We have more riches and children; and we are not going to be punished” (Q34 v 36)
Allah replies them thus:
“It is not your riches nor your children that will bring you near Us in rank, but those who believe and do good works will have a double reward for what they did. And in lofty mansions will they be secure” (Q34 v 38).
In the light aforesaid, it is high time we turned our attention to loftier aspects of life. Let us turn to the remembrance of Allah. By this I do not mean the chanting of Dhikr or other litanies. I rather mean the act of seeing Allah in His creations and serving Him through them. This, according to the Holy prophet(saw) is the best way of being God-conscious. Allah describes the winners in the game of life as:
“Men whom neither trade nor business diverts from the remembrance of Allah nor from observing the Prayer, nor from giving Zakat and charity. They fear a day in which hearts and eyes will be agitated” (Q24 v 38).
This description shows that Allah expects faith and noble deeds only from His servants. The other-worldly abode is reserved for those who make such their goals in life and not those who revel in the attainment of wealth ONLY. As man serves his Creator, his wealth must serve him. He must use his material, intellectual and moral wealth to serve his Creator; and what better way can one serve Allah than through service to humanity!
Man and the Game of Life
Beloved elders, we are all in the game of life. Let us reflect together on how we have played it. In the game of life, Allah in His infinite wisdom has decreed that man should enjoy the freedom to choose what he wants to be, where he wants to be and how he wants to be. However, His Mighty Hand directs the affairs of the world behind the scene. Like a football match, He has ordained a time limit for the game of life, but unlike it, there is neither extra time nor injury time. Only one schedule is to be played and it lasts a life time. Every man has his team which he chooses alone and the choice of the team determines how he will fare in the game.
Permit me to congratulate you that as elders of this organization, you are blessed with the opportunity to have been appointed into this circle of great responsibilities. You have been favored to walk in righteous company and for this you must be forever grateful to Allah.
It is however necessary to mention that however much the Jama’at and members of your family want you to become winners in the game, “You” and “You” alone, must work for it. They can praise you, give you moral support, assist you in your task, but they cannot account for your deeds for you and neither can they perform righteous deeds in your stead. Therefore, in the final analysis, the main task of becoming a winner is “Yours” and “Yours” alone.