Fasting & Ramadan in the Noble Quran - Part 4¶
Streamed Live Tuesday May 11th 2021
The Pathways To The Boundless¶
In this session, Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri, Shaykh Saadi Shakur, and Dr. Adnan Aladnani discuss shari’a: The Pathways to The Boundless.
Shari'a is the path to faithfulness for those who seek closeness to The Source, i.e. God. To find this path, an observant Muslim needs a code of behavior for everyday life that equally regulates an individual’s relationship with God and with other fellow humans.
As such, in Quranic verses, speaking well to and of others (Quran 23:3), compassion towards parents (Quran 2:83), and helping the orphan (Quran 2:83) are not categorically different from respecting contracts (Quran 17:34) and prohibiting homicide (Quran 17:33). They are respectively acts of good (ṣāliḥāt) or evil (sayyiāt) that should be performed or refrained from by believers (muʾminun).
Although the Quran does not distinguish between legal and moral rules, in the contemporary Islamic discourse, some legal scholars have limited the meaning of shari’a to law and jurisprudence in its modern sense.
Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) said:
The outer law (Shari’a) is my word,
The spiritual path (Tariqa) my actions,
And the inner reality (Haqiqa) my inner states.
This most important conversation provides context and understanding for a greatly misunderstood subject. The conversation will differentiate between Shari’a and Fiqh by discussing the semitic roots of these two words and connecting them to the Noble Quran and its relevance in Ramadan.
This is the last conversation of the Ramadan 2021 series within the Uncommon Dialogue and we trust it has been a wonderful month for all who participated and attended these sessions.
The Arabic word shari'a means the path leading to the spring. The Quranic verse specifically referring to the word shari'a reads: ’Then we put thee on the Way of religion so follow thou that (Way), and follow not the desires of those who know not.’ (45:18)
The distinction between shari’a and fiqh (jurisprudence).¶
While shari’a can be understood as an abstract concept of divine will or the path laid down by God, fiqh comes into play when divine law is derived and articulated by human scholars. Such human understanding, as mentioned above, is inevitably tainted by particular geographical and cultural characteristics of the time. Fiqh as a man-made construct of God’s will is therefore not immune from difference of opinion and possibility of error.
Sadly, the fallibility of fiqh is often overlooked by all sides of the discourse on the so-called shari’a law. Attitudes of self-centrism and self-referentialism can be seen among both proponents of shari’a and its opponents. Indeed, ignorance, oversimplification, and prejudice have hindered an open discussion about the evolution of Islamic rules throughout history. Rumi describes shari’a as a candle that lights the way for those who want to begin their spiritual journey. Once the path is illuminated, the sufi continues the journey (tariqa) with an ultimate quest for truth (haqiqa).
Allah’s creation, its purpose and direction, is laid out according to perfect designs and patterns.
In order for our innate nature (fitrah) to develop in recognizing and adhering to those inherently harmonious ways, we need to grasp the full code of the dīn. The Qur’an contains the foundational knowledge of that code. It unveils the way to Allah by Allah’s mercy (rahmah) and equally identifies the cul-de-sac that draws us into confusion and destruction. It describes in detail the character, conduct and path of the believer and also the bleak picture of the non-believer. It highlights the pitfalls of the ego-self (nafs) and how one may sublimate and transform into an enlightened being. As well as addressing the individual, the Qur’an also addresses mankind on a social level through the many references to nations being destroyed by their wrong deeds.
Allah, His ways, commands, and prohibitions contain the most prominent regulatory patterns in natural creation. Everything in existence has been designed perfectly, and human endeavor is needed to uncover and apply the appropriate ways of interacting in the world.
In Allah’s creation, more specific general laws and decrees have been highlighted. These laws and decrees were revealed to the prophets and messengers – who were enlightened beings – with appropriate paths of leadership and governance for their times. The dīn includes matters of faith and transformative worship as well as appropriate codes of conduct.
The prophetic character of Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was the perfect example of living Islam. Human search, struggle and high aspiration for perfection and beauty will continue forever. Experiencing the Garden in this world is only a temporary reflection of paradise in the Hereafter.
The dīn of Islam, based on the Qur’an and the prophetic way, is the map that will take us from this world of change and uncertainty to the abode of eternal bliss and happiness. This map reveals the boundaries and the direction that will lead us back to our home where Adam and Eve came into being.
Our dīn is a way life, a way of thinking, a way of eating, a way of worshipping, a way of transacting, and a way of relationships. Every aspect has the appropriate courtesy. To begin with, for a child it’s a bit difficult because he does not immediately see the benefit that he shouldn’t eat while he is walking; he shouldn’t drink while he is running, and so on. But as he gets older he finds that these practices are beneficial because he does not get indigestion. All of these virtues, which are a result of practicing the dīn, are of immediate direct benefit. We are living at a time when society cannot help the family and individual very much because of the smaller households, and all of the other demands of pleasures and frivolous distractions. Therefore, simply giving orders to young people to follow rituals will not work. But if they realize that they can excel in their studies and exams by perfecting their sajda (prostration), how to disappear and have no thought in it, they will certainly do their salat (prayers) more enjoyably, and more on time. They will not miss it. There are benefits of salat at every level.
So we need to live our dīn, and to absorb the benefits of every aspect of the Qur`an and Prophetic teaching. We must be the first beneficiaries, otherwise we will be preaching without partaking ourselves, and that is hypocrisy.
That is what so many so-called religious communities suffer from. So the second course introduces us to the dīn, the shariʻa, the way of life: the way of thinking, moving, transacting; what is correct, what is allowed and what is not; what is forbidden completely and what is despicable and to be avoided. It is all for our own sake. Allah does not need it. You and I need it in order to realize the light of Allah in our hearts. The course shows us how to transform vices into virtues, and how every aspect of the shariʻa is designed to bring about a shift and elevation in the level of our consciousness and awareness.
All outer acts of worship in all religions must help a person to arrive at a deep understanding of inner meanings and the true purpose underlying such acts; otherwise, they remain empty rituals bereft of meaning. Worship is the ultimate demonstration of a person’s adoration and love for the object of worship, who is nothing less than the One Source of everything. The yearning to worship is ingrained within our soul. By performing the ritual acts of worship we are attempting to unify our mind, body and actions to work together with the Divine attributes that are so deeply loved and desired. All ritual worship, in effect, is an attempt to be in unison with Divine consciousness.
Rituals, Intention, Attention & Appropriate Action¶
Islam provides details of numerous ‘necessary’ or obligatory practices and rituals for individuals and communities. The Qur’an and the Islamic way of life provide the spiritual path, maps and codes which may unlock the durable common purpose and meaning of life on earth.
All acts of worship begin with self-awareness and a desire for higher knowledge. The preparation for worship is the declaration of intent and the hope to be focused, attentive and engaged in the process of a deepening one’s state of awareness. A point may arrive when the worshiper loses concerns with worldly mundane matters and begins to experience subtler levels of awareness which are deeper than the normal day to day variety. The ultimate purpose of worship and prayer is to experientially realize a state that is not subject to earthly or mental limitations. This may be variously identified as the sacred void, inner bliss, pure peace, or ultimate or higher consciousness.
Islam is the path of unity between one’s intentions and actions. It begins with a declaration by the tongue, reflecting a sincere heart. A Muslim is someone who professes that there is one God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of that one God. Knowledge of this truth will become clearer in time.
Recognition of this condition gives rise to a formal expression of worship for which preparation is required. Our natural needs in life will make us supplicate, invoke and pray for God’s power to relieve us from needs, pains and fears. Communal supplications and prayers increase the power of the act. There are special occasions, times and places, that are auspicious, such as the nights of power during the month of fasting – Ramadan. There are also sacred places where acts of worship are enhanced. The symbolic house of God was established by the Prophet Abraham in Makkah, where people walk around (tawāf) the Ka`bah and pray in its precinct. Jerusalem is another major center for prayer and pilgrimage.
The practices of regular and formal prayers, fasting, pilgrimage, payment of wealth tax, performing good actions, and exerting outer and inner struggle to reform the self, are part of the essential package of Islam. Cleanliness of body, mind and heart are essential preconditions to acts of prayer and worship.
Equally important is to eat and drink modestly of that which is prescribed as pure and clean. There are clear boundaries and restrictions to be observed on our senses and actions. Outer limitations hint at the limitlessness of the inner. It is important for human beings to realize that we need God’s grace and mercy at all times, and that it can be received when we are ready and receptive. Restrictions and shortages are nature’s way to limit our egotistic excesses.
The foundation of the dīn, metaphorically and practically, is based upon the mystery of Oneness, which pervades universally. A mature human being can approach this goal after having attained reasonable spiritual confidence within one’s own self. If you are not unified within your mind, heart, and intentions then ‘tawhīd’ remains a vague idea, rather than a present reality. It is only a unified person who can be at the door of sacred unity. The success of any action very much depends upon the original intention and preparation. If you start to build an edifice by laying the correct foundation and continue in that disciplined manner you will have a handsome house. But if the building proceeds haphazardly, you will be left with a ramshackle building.
Living faith is about willing submission to the truth of one reality: Allah. The faithful seeker witnesses countless transient realities in this world but his focus is on the never-changing truth behind the changeable. His adoration and worship is preceded by yearning, calling, pleading, praying, and undertaking appropriate action. The best of actions are those that reduce personal desires and earthly attachments. As human beings in constant interaction with the world of causalities, we benefit by preparing to disengage from worldly demands in order to be more receptive to the inner world of lights and subtle insights. In doing so, we do not deny the gross reality, but balance the emphasis between the seen and the unseen. The Adamic reality contains an indefinable source of life called the soul/spirit (rūh) and a self (nafs) that connects the soul with the physical world through senses and limbs.
The spiritual path is based upon making the self subservient to the soul which will provide higher guidance through the inner light that shines through a purified heart. The main objective, then, is to know the nature of the self, guarding over it with vigilance, holding it to account and treating it with the proper remedies. Progress in directing one’s conduct and actions towards noble traits will result in greater awareness of the self and awakening to ever-increasing insights and knowledges. The basis of shari`ah is to restrict the tendencies of the lower self in order for the higher (consciousness) to be the leader and guide for appropriate intentions and actions needed for wholesome living. The thrill of experiencing the inner light of the soul will then lead the seeker towards perfecting worship and maintaining a high level of self-awareness and clear boundaries for actions. Thus, higher consciousness will lift all the veils and shadows which were the cause of previous confusions and darkness. A paradigm shift in behavior will be the clear sign of enlightenment.
He has laid down for you as religion that He charged Noah with, and that We have revealed to thee, and that We charged Abraham with, Moses and Jesus: 'Perform the religion, and scatter not regarding it. Very hateful is that for the idolaters, that thou callest them to. God chooses unto Himself whomsoever He will, and He guides to Himself whosoever turns, penitent.
And We have sent down to thee the Book with the truth, confirming the Book that was before it, and assuring it. So judge between them according to what God has sent down, and do not follow their caprices, to forsake the truth that has come to thee. To every one of you We have appointed a right way and an open road. If God had willed, He would have made you one nation; but that He may try you in what has come to you. So be you forward in good works; unto God shall you return, all together; and He will tell you of that whereon you were at variance.
Then We set thee upon an open way of the Command; therefore follow it, and follow not the caprices of those who do not know.
And it is not for the believers to go forth [to battle] all at once. For there should separate from every division of them a group [remaining] to obtain understanding in the religion and warn their people when they return to them that they might be cautious.
And We have certainly created for Hell many of the jinn and mankind. They have hearts with which they do not understand, they have eyes with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do not hear. Those are like livestock; rather, they are more astray. It is they who are the heedless.
And that if they should keep to the (right) way, We would certainly give them to drink of abundant water,
They said, 'Our people, we have heard a Book that was sent down after Moses, confirming what was before it, guiding to the truth and to a straight path.
There is not to be upon the Prophet any discomfort concerning that which Allah has imposed upon him. [This is] the established way of Allah with those [prophets] who have passed on before. And ever is the command of Allah a destiny decreed.
Most surely He Who has made the Quran binding on you will bring you back to the destination. Say: My Lord knows best him who has brought the guidance and him who is in manifest error.
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become reverent
And establish prayer and give zakah, and whatever good you put forward for yourselves - you will find it with Allah. Indeed, Allah of what you do, is Seeing.
O you who have believed, when you rise to [perform] prayer, wash your faces and your forearms to the elbows and wipe over your heads and wash your feet to the ankles. And if you are in a state of janabah, then purify yourselves. But if you are ill or on a journey or one of you comes from the place of relieving himself or you have contacted women and do not find water, then seek clean earth and wipe over your faces and hands with it. Allah does not intend to make difficulty for you, but He intends to purify you and complete His favor upon you that you may be grateful.
Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah , the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous.
And they were not commanded except to worship Allah, [being] sincere to Him in religion, inclining to truth, and to establish prayer and to give zakah. And that is the correct religion.
Say: 'My Lord has commanded justice. Set your faces in every place of worship and call on Him, making your religion sincerely His. As He originated you so you will return;
Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.
Permitted to you, upon the night of the Fast, is to go in to your wives; -- they are a vestment for you, and you are a vestment for them. God knows that you have been betraying yourselves, and has turned to you and pardoned you. So now lie with them, and seek what God has prescribed for you. And eat and drink, until the white thread shows clearly to you from the black thread at the dawn; then complete the Fast unto the night, and do not lie with them while you cleave to the mosques. Those are God's bounds; keep well within them. So God makes clear His signs to men; haply they will be reverent.
He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah. But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], there is no sin upon him. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
Those who devour usury shall not rise again except as he rises, whom Satan of the touch prostrates; that is because they say, 'Trafficking (trade) is like usury.' God has permitted trafficking, and forbidden usury. Whosoever receives an admonition from his Lord and gives over, he shall have his past gains, and his affair is committed to God; but whosoever reverts -- those are the inhabitants of the Fire, therein dwelling forever.
Say, "Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited to you. [He commands] that you not associate anything with Him, and to parents, good treatment, and do not kill your children out of poverty; We will provide for you and them. And do not approach immoralities - what is apparent of them and what is concealed. And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden [to be killed] except by [legal] right. This has He instructed you that you may use reason."