New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

A Beautiful Religion: Part Two

Posted in notes by Imam Zaid Shakir on 2007-06-23

A Beautiful Religion: Part Two

The beauty of Islam is directly associated with the beauty of Allah (God). The Prophet, peace upon him, relates the following tradition, “Surely God is beautiful and He loves beauty.” The beauty of God is incomparable. Therefore, the greatest delight of Paradise will be the indescribable joy of gazing upon God. This act is fittingly described as the beatific vision.

God mentions in the Qur’an: Those who do good will have exceeding good, and a great increase.  The increase mentioned in this verse will be the beatific vision as related by Imam Muslim in his Sahih. This leads us to a very important point, namely, God’s incomparable beauty should elicit from us incomparable love. As humans, one of the greatest inducements of love is beauty. Incomparable beauty should elicit incomparable love. Hence, the following Qur’anic description is apt for the believers: Among people there are those who take substitutes whom they love as they should love God. Those who believe are more intense in their love of God [than their love for anything else]. (2:165)

This leads in turn to another point: one of the criticisms of Islam is that it is a religion void of love. This is a baseless accusation arising from sheer ignorance. Our love for God is a reflection of the love we receive from Him. One of our fundamental Islamic principles is the following: “What we receive from God is categorical to what we present to Him (Al-Jaza’ min Jins al-‘Amal).” We love God and He loves us. This relationship is mentioned in the following narration: “…my servant continues to draw himself/herself close [to me] with the voluntary acts until I love him/her.” As this tradition relates, our devotion to God culminates in His love for us.

This mutual love—our love for God and His love for us—is of such importance in Islam that it is the first description of the people God will bring to replace those who have turned back on the religion. He says, O, Believers! If any of you turns back on his faith then know that God will bring another people whom He will love and they will love Him. (5:54)

This idea of deep love and devotion to God is not a new one. We read in the Bible that Jesus, peace upon him, responded when asked about the first commandment:

Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. Mark 12:29-30

Hence, our existence should be defined by our love for God. Our love for God not only opens up the Divine Pathways that lead to God’s love for us, it is also liberating in that it qualifies our love for everything else in a way that wards off the harm that inevitably will accrue when we wrongly prioritize our love. Our love for many things is natural. God mentions in the Qur’an: The love of the lusts for the opposite gender, children, heaped up treasures of gold and silver, branded steeds, cattle, and cultivated fields have been made alluring to people. That is the life of the mundane world, and with God is the best repose. (3:20)

However, when our love for the opposite gender is greater than our love for God, then we may be led to fornication, adultery, promiscuity, and other negative behavior that has been forbidden by our Lord. That behavior more often than not results in venereal disease, broken homes, fatherless children, and other destructive consequences.

Similarly, when our love for money is greater than our love for God, we may be led to dealing in usury, hording, monopoly, insider trading, usurpation of the resources and wealth of others, and other destructive economic practices—all of which are forbidden by God through His Prophet Muhammad, peace upon him, because of their destructiveness.

God is elevating us from the sources of our destruction, He is calling us to something higher, to a higher love, something that will lead to a higher purpose for our lives. The world wants to debase us, seducing us to misplace our love, leaving us to suffer the consequences of our heedlessness. As believers, the choice and path for us should be quite clear.

Those who believe are more intense in their love of God [than their love for anything else].



By Nour on January 9, 2008 at 8:37am

Assalam Alaikum,, Jazak Allah Khyran Imam Zaid for this wonder article, it represents the heart of Islam. Frequent sense :( last year, I was waiting for a movie on one TV channel, and then I remembered before Athan Alesha'a, that I did not pray Al-Maghrab. Then I went quickly and do the pray before the movie was started, I was worried about missing the beginning of the movie. Another frequent sense:' one day, at work, and the lunch break, my colleague suggested that we have to pray in the work because most employees pray and we have to, to avoid the critisicm of the other colleagues. Most Arab people obey God orders including praying and fasting because they want to avoid the society criticism. Most of us are Muslim because we were born in Muslim countries and our parents are Muslims. We pray and fast because we used to, and because we found our parents doing that. Many people in the Arab country complain and ask why we do not feel that we are closed to God although we pray and obey all God orders, or do not feel that they do not have any spiritual power while praying, they say that pray is like doing some actions, not more with out feeling any closeness to God. Why most Arab have problems just as Western have, alcohol, addiction, high percentage of divorce and other social problems, although they are Muslims, (we are Muslim, we have to be blessed) that is what they used to say. Most Arab Muslims are just like other people in other countries, concern for gaining more money, have a good reputation and getting married and having children in addition to do the Islamic worships thinking by being successful at life that they are achieving their mission at life and they are really close to God. But they are not, because God is not their first prior, Islam is not a choice for most Arab Muslim, it is a force from society, I do pray because if I do not, all people will criticize me and talk about me badly. It does not matter if I pray form my heart to my Lord, or whether I feel that praying is a waste of time for me because it is just action, but I have to do it because I am Muslim. We never learn how to love God, and how to choose his love to enlighten our path at life, The Islam never comes form heart. I never understand the relationship with God exists and it is the basic for Islam, we always concern, will I go to heaven or paradise, Does God love me? It were like mysterious questions with no answers. I never realized that my relationship with God is exactly as you when are in love with some one, you keep thinking, missing, talking about the other all time and valuing any present comes form the other. And sometime you feel speechless for all the love that you carry for who you love. If this is the way that we love some one like us, slave then how the love is going to be with the Lord, our creator, Allah. I do believe that every one has to stop and think, and be honest with him/her self regarding his/her relationship with God, you can pretend and act as you like Muslim but can not trick God. No one will understand the fruits and the sweetness of loving God (the quietness, calmness and joyinessunless he/she experience it. The one who do not live this life Paradise will never live other Paradise after his death.

By Nour on January 12, 2008 at 5:46am

I thank Imam Zaid for this article which explains the basic of Islam. And emphasise the relationship with Allah and our love for Him which has to be our first prior at life. Let me try to resemble our relationship with Allah with out any intentions to underestimate his Majesty or our sacred relationship with Him. When you are in love with someone, then you think of him /her all the time, miss him/her, talk about him/her all the time. Believe that he/she is perfect, and see her/him the most beautiful creature at life, and fell that you are stronger when you are with your lover and able to pass any obstacle at life. Simply all your life is turned to a paradise as you feel happy all the time, and ultimately you realize that you find some one who love you for who are and appreciate you, and believe that you find a purpose to live. And you always think how to make other happy and to be satisfied form you. As the other happiness give you all the power and pleasant you need. If this is our relationship with some one just like you, some one who is not perfect and who could betrays you or do not guarantees permanent love as he/she could die, sick or what ever, as he/she is a slave for Allah, then does not Allah 'our perfect creator' worth this feeling to be directed for His love and to make it our first prior at life for all the blessings that he bestowed in you. We really need to think again about our relationship with Allah. We have to be honest with Him. And to be decisive with ourselves regarding the path that we choose at life. And remember our relationship with Allah is very sacred not like any other human relationship. We can not use our business mentality with God, it like to think how much I will gain from materiel stuff if I decide that Allah is my prior. How much I will gain or lose? It is not 'win �lose ' relationship, it is never. And knows that you can trick any one but not God. You can pray and fast in front of people 'as a way of tradition' but do you feel that your pray is a way of communicate with Allah and a way to thank Him for all the blessings he gave you? Do you feel the sweetness of your closeness to God? Do you feel that you are strong because you are closed to Allah? Do you feel all the sentimental value of all the worships in addition to the material one? When we make our love for Allah our first priority, then we will find the balance that we miss in our present life and will get rid of the extremes. I read in many books that 'the one who never has lived the paradise at life, will never live the Here after paradise.

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