Islam is Not Just Rituals; It is System of Moral Values
Of course, daily prayers and fasting are important institutions in Islam. But should they be treated as mere rituals? Or is there a wider meaning to them? Unfortunately, most of the believers around us and even some organizations restrict Islam to a mere belief in “five pillars” namely, faith in Allah and Prophet Muhammad, the five times prayers, the Ramazan fasting, the Hajj and the Zakat (compulsory charity).
The question is: could this have been the Islam that was propagated by the beloved Prophet? An in-depth study of the Quranic thought would reveal that Islam is not the name of a personal god-based ritualistic religion. It is actually a system of moral and legal codes which proposes to regulate society on the universal principles of justice, fairness and equity through the institutions of prayers, fasting, Hajj and Zakat. If understood in their originality, it would be realized that there is nothing ritualistic about these concepts.
For instance, during daily prayer, the message of the Quran is read out five times a day to people standing shoulder to shoulder in the masjids irrespective of their social or financial status. This negates the doctrine of untouchability and inculcates a sense of communal equality. The thirty-day Ramazan fasting, focuses attention on hunger, and zakat underscores the importance of equitable distribution of wealth, and through it the eradication of poverty.
Hajj is more of an annual international conference to discuss global issues for the benefit of mankind as implied by the Quran (22:27-28) than a mere pilgrimage to perform certain rites. It is also the world’s biggest display of unity in diversity where men and women of different nationalities congregate for a common cause.
But unfortunately, the Muslims have been wrongly made to believe that these “rituals” are an end in themselves. This has resulted in their spirit being completely lost. Thus we see today Muslims mechanically praying five times a day, regularly fasting in Ramazan, frequently visiting Makkah for Hajj and even paying nominal zakat, all without making any difference to the quality of their lives, or in any way reducing the poverty and illiteracy around them.
The Quran highlights this malady in a subtle verse saying, “It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards East or West,… but to spend from your wealth… for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, the wayfarer, for those who ask and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in salaat and zakat, to fulfill the contracts which you have made, and to be firm and patient in pain and adversity throughout all periods of panic…” (2:177)
The Prophet further emphasized this saying: “One who strives for the widows and the poor is like the one who strives in the way of God. I shall regard him as one who stands up for prayer without rest and as one who fasts without break” (Bukhari)
The emphasis on ritualism among Muslims today is a result of the misinterpretation of the Quranic term ‘Deen’ which has been wrongly equated with ‘Religion’. The truth is that while religion exemplifies a set of dogmas revolving around a personal god who needs to be appeased through superstitious rituals, Deen is about abiding by certain rules and regulations for the common good of society.
‘Deen’ is analogous with the constitution of a country which once adopted is bound to be respected by every citizen. A “Muslim” is a peaceful person who submits willingly or unwillingly to a body of humanitarian precepts promoted by the Quran.
This is the true meaning of Islam which needs to be widely propagated through ‘social reform committees’ and not resolutions that propose to take the Muslims back to the medieval age.
For those who would like to know more about Islam:
Originally posted on February 18, 2022 @ 8:55 pm
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