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Interpretation of the Quran- Surat Al-Nisa' (4)- Lesson (20)- Verse [36]
   
 
 
In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, Most Merciful  
 

Truth of worship:

Dear brother, this is our twentieth lesson in Surat An-Nisa (Chapter 4), Verse 36:

﴾Worship Allah and join none with Him (in worship), and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, Al-Masakin (the poor), the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and those (slaves) whom your right hands possess. Verily, Allah does not like such as are proud and boastful; (36)﴿

Dear brother, the first fact that this verse expresses is that our fundamental mission in life is to worship Allah. Worship means total submission and obedience to Allah, (May He be glorified.) It is our duty towards Allah, it is the price of heaven, and it is the reason of our existence. Worship is both obedience and love for Allah. Those who love Allah and disobey Him cannot be said to have loved Him, and those who obey Him without love cannot be said to have worshiped Him. This kind of obedience is not out of love; it is a compulsory kind of obedience. True worship, which must be based on the scientific truth of knowing Allah, is obedience intermingled with love; the outcome of this worship is happiness in this life and the hereafter. Happiness and, most importantly, security are the ultimate goal of all living things. All creatures on earth, consciously or subconsciously, are looking for security and happiness. By worshipping Allah the Creator and following His commands, Man can be secure from the torments of this life and the torture of the afterlife. It is just like following the instructions of a manufacturer when you want to use his products.

﴾ None can inform you like Him Who is Aware.﴿

(Fatir, 14)

The most dangerous thing is to separate acts of worship from dealing:

To believe in Allah is to believe in His infinite knowledge, His infinite wisdom, and His infinite mercy. This also means to believe in His Book which says that you are created for Heaven, not for Hell. When you know you are created for Heaven, you stop disobeying Him and start a new life based on benefaction and generosity. It is really one of the most fundamental life issues to believe that this universe has a creator, a caretaker, a director; that this universe has one perfect existent God Whose names are all fairest and Whose attributes are the best; that He created you for a heaven as wide as the heavens and the earth; that your worship means to be secure and happy in heaven. This worship is the reason of your existence; it is your duty towards Allah; it is the key to security and happiness. However, most Muslims think that worship means only performing rituals. Dear Brother, there is a traditional classification which I don’t object to, but which, I’m afraid, can be adopted in explaining and understanding worship. In Islam we have doctrines, worship, etiquette, and propriety. Now if worship is mentioned, we immediately think of prayer, fasting, zakat (charity), Hajj (pilgrimage), and saying shahada (testifying that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His messenger). This classification is made by scholars, but worship has more to it than this restricted classification; it means doing your work well, being fair to your wife, and being fully ready for your enemy. This broad Quranic definition of worship brings about more than a hundred thousand commandments that can be added to the extended Quranic and prophetical sense of worship. How, then, could have these commandments been contracted to mere ritualistic worship? Muslims have contracted Islam to only ritualistic worship, which is why they are now undeveloped and behind the times. Some of them do their prayers and fast Ramadan, but they also do immoral things. Someone told me that a number of people who regularly go to pray in mosques sell CD’s that show porno movies. Haven’t these people ever thought that this kind of activity contradicts the teaching of their religion, their principles of their faith and the basics of straightforwardness? How could they stand praying in the first row and, at the same time, have this profession as their means of living? Separating the ritualistic worship from the ethical worship is the most dangerous practice that can harm your religion. If Islam is limited all the time to ritualistic worship, it will no longer exist. What proves this fact is the following Hadith (a saying by the prophet): Ibn Omar (May Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said:Islam is built on five pillars: witnessing that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His messenger, doing prayer, fasting Ramadan, paying zakat, and performing Hajj.

Islam is dealing with sh3er:

So Islam is one thing and the five pillars are another. To illustrate, if I say that a fifty-floor building is built on fifty pillars, does this mean that the pillars are the building itself? Of course no; the pillars are the foundations on which the building is established. Likewise, the ritualistic worship gives you spiritual boost, whereas ethical worship is Islam itself. Jafar, the prophet’s companion, described the prophet as a man “whose honesty, truthfulness, chastity, and ancestry we all know. He commanded that we should be truthful, that we should stay in contact with our kinship, that we should be kind to our neighbours, and that we should stop blood shed and violating people’s privacy.” The companions took Islam as codes of conduct, morals, ethics, chastity, straightforwardness, and honesty. They understood Islam as a religion that ordered them to do their work well and to fulfil their promises and oaths. When they understood Islam in the light of these ethical values, they could spread their religion worldwide. Muslims nowadays are more than the third of the world’s population (some 1.400.000.000), but they have no influence at all. They all cannot influence the major international policies because their religion has become solely ritualistic. Even man-made faiths have rituals that consist of certain movements, poses, and meaningless hums. They, too, have their faith contracted to mere rituals which have no relevance to the way they live. It does not affect or reflect on their homes, their work, or their business. The biggest problem, therefore, is our understanding of religion as only ritualistic; i.e., doing prayers, fasting, paying zakat, and performing hajj. We do all these and have our homes, businesses, relationships, entertainments, celebrations, and funerals done according to western values and customs. These customs consist of mixed parties with all sorts of wrongdoing, breaking promises, and cheating. This is exactly the condition of Muslims today. The word ‘worship’ should be inextricably intertwined with every detail of your daily life: your relation with your wife, your raising of your children, your cleanliness, your movement and stillness, and your earnings and expenditure. Worship, along with any command mentioned in the Quran, is obligatory, brother. Worship means to arm ourselves well for battles with our enemies, to do our job well, to make the world prosper according to the will of Allah (May He be glorified), because He made you husband the Earth. Worship is to do good. This great concept sums up the reason of our existence and the reason of happiness and safety. However, we still understand worship as only ritualistic.

Worship is obedience to Allah’s approach as a whole:

This is why Allah says:

﴾Worship Allah﴿

We must live in full obedience to Allah, obedience that is based on love, loyalty, and trust. Worship is manifested in every second of your day. If you enter your house with a smile on your face and make your home full of happiness, you are in worship. If you visit a patient, you are in worship. If you sit chatting with and entertaining your family, you are in worship. If you buy new clothes to represent the good-looking Muslim, you are in worship. If you master your job and do it properly to benefit your fellow Muslims, you are in worship. When a mother raises her children well and cares for her husband, she is in worship. If you take your children for an outing to please them and strengthen the filial bonds, you are in worship. If you overcome your enemy, you are in worship. If you stay late thinking of something to benefit Muslims, you are in worship. Worship is a very broad concept that includes every single activity we do. If you comply with all the detailed commandments of the Quran and the Prophet, and if you do all the daily routine as acts of a believer, not as mere habits as most people do, you are in worship. If you help your mother with her chores, you are in worship. If you help your little brother with a school subject that he is not good at, you are in worship. This is the broad sense of worship: full submission to the entire instructions decreed by Allah. Worship is not confined to the five pillars of Islam, and this is why Allah says:

﴾Worship Allah.﴿

If you worship Him with some partners, this is not worship because Allah has no partners and does not accept people attributing partners with Him. Allah is above all partnerships.

﴾Worship Allah and join none with Him (in worship),…﴿

Worshipping Allah is joined with being good to parents:

Worshipping Him alone, loving Him, obeying Him, trusting Him, counting on Him, and accepting His decrees alone is what worship really is. All your movements like bathing or doing something to please your family is worship. If you work by this broad concept of worship, you will find yourself aiming at a big noble objective: guiding the sh3er to way of Allah. Worship is a voluntary submission intermingled with love that is based on unquestionable knowledge. This knowledge eventually leads to eternal bless and happiness. You must sincerely worship Allah alone and not attribute any partners to Him. This is why He says:

﴾Worship Allah and join none with Him (in worship), ….﴿

Dear brother, the main reason of your existence is to worship Allah; however, your parents are your access to existence. This is why in many places in the Quran, the commandment of worshipping Allah is accompanied with doing good to one’s parents:

﴾Worship Allah and join none with Him (in worship), and do good to parents,…﴿

In this verse, Allah (May He be glorified) combines worship to doing good to parents using the conjunction “and”, which combines two ideas of equal importance. This means that doing good to parents is no less important than worshipping Allah. This is also evident in Sura Al Isra (chapter 17), Verse 23:

﴾And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents.﴿

Doing good to parents includes being with them and at their service:

This shows how close you should be to your parents, and this is also clear in Sura Al Muddathir (chapter 74), Verse13:

﴾And children to be by his side!﴿

Being dutiful to your parents means to adhere to them, to serve them, and to accompany and contact them personally all the time. Doing good to your parents must be done personally by you, and not by making sh3er do it for you. No matter how influential and wealthy you may be, you should personally be at your parents’ service. This is what this verse means.

﴾And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents.﴿

Now, what if the parents are non-Muslims? One should be dutiful and kind to one’s parents even if they are non-Muslims. This is because the word “parents” is not limited to Muslim parents as the previous verse shows and as the following Hadith shows: A woman came to the Prophet asking him: “Oh, Messenger of Allah, my mother is a disbeliever. Can I visit her?” “ Yes, you can,” the Messenger replied.

Man should be grateful to his parents:

Dear brother, Allah says in Sura Hud (chapter 11), Verses 42-43:

﴾So it (the ship) sailed with them amidst the waves like mountains, and Nûh (Noah) called out to his son, who had separated himself (apart), "O my son! Embark with us and be not with the disbelievers." (42) (The son) replied: "I will betake myself to some mountain, it will save me from the water." Nûh (Noah) said: "This day there is no saviour from the Decree of Allah except him on whom He has mercy." And waves came in between them, so he (the son) was among the drowned. (43)﴿

One of the implications of this verse is that it is not acceptable to have a child punished in front of his parent because the parent’s tender heart would not stand it. There are three kinds of blessings: the blessing of existence, the blessing of sustenance, and the blessing of guidance. Allah is the creator who brought you into existence, and He is your sustainer and guidance. So you are endowed with three blessings. Similarly, there is a father who begot you, a father who married his daughter to you, and a father who guided you to Allah. The one who begot you is the reason of your existence; the one who gave you his daughter to be your wife is considered a father because he raised his daughter and taught her good manners and took care of her health, her education and her morals; and the one who guided you to Allah is the reason of your eternal happiness. Therefore, you should be thankful to the father who begot you, to the father who married his daughter to you, and to the father who guided you to Allah. Now what if your parent asked you to disobey Allah or attribute partners to Him? The answer is in Sura Luqman (Chapter 31) Verse 15:

﴾But if they (both) strive with you to make you join in worship with Me sh3er that of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not, but behave with them in the world kindly, and follow the path of him who turns to Me in repentance and in obedience. …. (15)﴿

Those who back their parents in opposition to Allah and His Messenger cannot be said to believe in Allah and the Last Day. Doing good is different from being supportive. If a parent wilfully does all that Allah forbids like drinking alcohol, committing adultery, or oppressing sh3er, you should not support him or approve to what he is doing; however, you have to do him good. This is what this verse indicates.

Real safety and happiness are achieved by comprehensive worship:

Dear brother: what is interesting in Islam is that social unity is based on two things: geography and kinship. The geographic basis is one’s neighbours, and the kinship basis is one’s relatives. After ordering man to worship Him, Allah orders man to unfailingly obey Him and to avoid whatever He forbids. Worship means complete submission, love, loyalty, faithfulness, and trust. It has three dimensions: behavioural, educational, and aesthetic. The behavioural is the basis, the educational is the reason, and the aesthetic is the result. Security and true happiness can be attained only by worshipping Allah according to the more comprehensive and broader sense of worship. You have to worship Him according to your status; i.e., if you are rich, your first worship is spending money in the way that Allah decrees; if you are educated, your first worship is teaching people; if you are in authority, your first worship is making justice indiscriminately prevail; if you are a wife, your first worship is taking care of your husband and your children; if you are a doctor, your first worship is being sincere in your medical advice; if you are a lawyer, your first worship is being sincere in your legal advice; if you are an engineer, your first worship is being sincere in your professional advice. Therefore, worship is related to profession, personal status, health issues, marriage, having children and bringing them up. You have to take good care of your health because it is the Muslims’ property. You have to eat and sleep the way the Prophet (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) advises. You have to sleep with your wife the way the Prophet instructs. Worship covers every aspect of life, no matter how intricate or minute it may be.

Worship should be suitable to the Greatness of Allah:

Worship is performed according to your status, as we explained, or according to whatever situation you find yourself in. To illustrate, if an enemy invades your country, your first worship is defending your country; if your country is stricken by famine, your first worship is to provide food to the starving people; if a plague is spread, our first worship and concern is to fight it. So we must worship Allah according to our status and according to our present condition. The first worship on the 10th of Thul Hijja is glorifying Allah; in Ramadan, the first worship is fasting and praying; on Friday, our holy day, the first worship is Friday prayer and visiting our relatives and kinship. If our enemy promises to impoverish us, our first worship is to earn money and to spend it in the way that pleases Allah. Today, our enemies promise to impoverish Muslims. They take our wealth and threaten us. Our first worship in this case is to be productive, earn money and spend it wisely. If our enemy threatens to make us go astray, our first worship is to read, research and write so as to give evidence to and support our attitude and show the truth to people. If our enemy tries to inflict amorality on our children, our first worship is to keep them away from corruption and involve them in whatever keeps them closer to Islamic values and righteousness. If this enemy tries to humiliate us, our first worship is to preserve our dignity, character and faith. This is the broad and comprehensive meaning of worship that Verse 21 in Sura Al-Baqara (Chapter2) conveys:

﴾O mankind! Worship your Lord﴿

Every movement should be related to legal rulings:

If you slaughter an animal for its meat without sharpening the knife, you disobey Allah because the animal will be tortured in this case. Worship dictates that you slaughter the animal properly. Shaddad Ibn Awus narrated that the Prophet (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said:

((Allah dictates that you do good to everything: if you kill, kill properly; if you slaughter, slaughter properly by sharpening your knife and relieving the animal))

Thinking that Islam is only a matter of prayer and fasting is a misconception. Islam is reflected in every profession and career. When you add a harmful substance to your food products, you disobey Allah even if you do a thousand prayers a day. When you add artificial colour that can cause cancer only to make your product look nicer, you disobey Allah. When you do not teach children useful lessons whilst you can, you disobey Allah. When you receive a case from a client but do not do well in the trial session, you disobey Allah. When you carelessly and hastily cure a patient, you disobey Allah. All our actions and inactions revolve around Islamic rules.

﴾Worship Allah and join none with Him (in worship), and do good to parents, kinsfolk,…﴿

The first circle that surrounds you is your brother, sister, son, daughter, nephew, and niece; your grandparents are your “kinsfolk”.

﴾…and do good to parents, kinsfolk,…﴿

The Prophet (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) directs his companions to giving charity to their relatives. Rabab reports that her uncle Salman Ibn Amer narrates that the Prophet says: If any of you should breakfast, you would better start with dates because it is a blessed food. But if you do not have dates then start with water because it is a purifier. A charity given to the poor is a mere charity, but a charity given to your next of kin is both a charity and a sign of family unity. Social unity is based on ties of kinship.

Taking care of orphans and kinship are great good deeds:

﴾…and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans,…﴿

The orphan is one who lost his father, his cherisher, his nurturer, his caretaker. There may be someone or some organization that takes good care of orphans, but nothing can take the place of a father, no matter how extravagant and caring it may be. No one on earth can take care of the child’s happiness and welfare than his or her parents. This is why Allah (May He be glorified) decrees that everybody collaborates to take good care of the orphan. Orphans deserve dignity and utmost respect, and this is why Allah ordained that his Messenger Muhammad (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) be orphan. The best home that Allah likes is one in which an orphan lives respected and taken care of. This is why the best of good deeds is to nurture and take care of an orphan.

﴾Worship Allah and join none with Him (in worship), and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans,..﴿

Imagine how wonderful life would be if every wealthy, highly educated, or influential person visited, invited, or took care of his or her relatives. One of our brother told me his story and asked me to narrate it to you. He grew up in a family that was at odds with the other relatives and lost connection with them. After he attended a lesson like this one, he resolved to pay a visit to those relatives. So in the Eid he went to one of his relatives’ house and introduced himself to them. They welcomed him, appreciated his visit and promised to pay him a visit. When they did, they found that he lived in a cellar. Seeing the extremely miserable and unhealthy conditions this man lived in, those charitable relatives donated a luxurious house to him. He swore to me that he didn’t have in mind that they would do such a thing, and that it was such a surprise to him. This is the blessing that one gets from visiting ones relatives and checking their needs and worries. Visiting relatives is not just paying a mere visit; it is also inspecting their life conditions and educational conditions. Visiting your nephews and inspecting their lives, their education, their health, their faith as well as solving their problems and guiding them to Allah’s way is what visiting relatives is all about.

“The poor and needy” go together

﴾… and do good to parents, kinsfolk,…﴿

Uncles, aunts, and grandchildren are also relatives who belong to the circle that surrounds and who you should visit and assist. One of the most precise Hadiths (Prophet’s sayings) is one in which the Prophet says that visiting relatives and doing them good is a major reason of long life. This means that Allah rewards you a second life for doing this.

﴾…and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, Al-Masakin (the poor), …﴿

A distinction is made in the Quran between the poor and the destitute. The poor is the one who has very limited financial resources which are not enough for living a decent life, while the destitute is the one who has no resources whatsoever. The latter may even have some physical disability. However, when these two terms occur together in the Quran, the distinction is highlighted. But when one of them occurs alone, it includes the other. The poor and the destitute both need help, which can be offered by providing them with a means of living that can sustain them for life, and not by a mere donation that lasts for a short time.

This verse includes three kinds of neighbors:

﴾…and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, Al-Masakin (the poor), the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet),.. ﴿

Dear brother, scholars agree that people who live as far from you as forty houses or flats in all directions are considered your neighbours. This is why the Prophet says,

((Angel Gabriel persists that I should be kind to the neighbour so much so that I thought that he would make the neighbour an heir apparent.))

When the neighbours are good to one another and care about one another, anyone of them can travel abroad without worrying about his family. One of our brother told me that once he was abroad when his son was hit by a passing car. One of his neighbours took the son to hospital and stayed there to make sure that the injured son received the proper medical treatment and was well again. He, furthermore, was keen to pursue the case of the driver. This is the true neighbour and this is why Islam stresses the significance of neighbourhood.

1. The neighbor who is a relative:

The above verse explains that there are three kinds of neighbours: the common neighbour, the neighbour who is a relative, and the neighbour who is a stranger and who may be non-Muslim. The Muslim neighbour has two rights: the right of being a neighbour and the right of being a Muslim. The Muslim neighbour who is a relative has three rights: the right of being a neighbour, the right of being a Muslim, and the right of kinship. Now if you have a neighbour who is also a true believer, he will be urged by his faith and prayers to abstain from peeping into your house and to offer you help and pay you a visit. The non-Muslim neighbour has also the right of being cared about. He is one towards whom you should be kind and courteous.

2. The neighbor who is not a Muslim:

Abu Hanifa (May Allah bless his soul) had a young neighbour who used to bother him with his songs. One of these songs said “I was forsaken. How could they do that?” When that neighbour was arrested for some felony, Abu Hanifa himself went to Al Muhtaseb, the Caliph. There he asked the caliph to set the young man free, and he got his request replied. He then accompanied the young man, and on their way home Abu Hanifa asked him, “Did I forsake you, young man?” Doing good and being kind to your dissolute neighbour may guide him to the right path, the path to Allah. Unfortunately, most neighbours nowadays are strangers to each other. They are neighbours only in the sense that they live in adjacent flats or houses, and not in the true sense of what neighbours should be like. The true Muslim neighbour is one who is always present when you are in need, who feels for you, who offers help whenever you need, who shares you in good and bad, and who does not hurt you whatsoever. I have read a story whose authenticity I haven’t yet researched. It says that the Prophet had a neighbour who used to hurt him by throwing rubbish in front of the Prophet’s door. For some time, the Prophet noticed that his neighbour stopped doing that. He then went to visit him only to see that he was seriously ill. The Prophet’s visit was the reason why this man entered Islam. So you should be kind to your neighbours even if they harm you.

3. Temporary companion:

﴾…the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a stranger, the companion by your side,,…﴿

“The companion by the side” is a kind of neighbour who does not live next to you; he is a temporary kind of “neighbour. He could be a colleague at work or road mate. He could be someone you are introduced to at a party, in a college, or at work place. This kind of neighbour is also one whom you should respect, help, and be kind to.

﴾…, the wayfarer (you meet)…﴿

We should also offer help and do good to wayfarers who may desperately need money, food or shelter. A similar situation could be some students who are studying abroad and need money to go back home. The money given to them is considered a charity.

Greatness of man lies in his obedience to Allah:

﴾… the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and those (slaves) whom your right hands possess.﴿

If you own a business, all those working for you are employees that you should treat with respect and be kind to. If you have a servant or a house keeper, you should provide him with the kind of food and clothes that you yourself eat and wear. You should not impose on him any burdening tasks; however if you have a lot of work for him to do, you should help him finish it. He is a believer working for you. All the workers who work for you are people whose affairs are, so to speak, in your hands. They work under your direct command and receive their wages from you. They must be treated fairly and with respect. Pride has no place in Islam, which leads us to say that greatness manifests itself through obedience to Allah, not through pride. The Prophet (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) used to feed the cat, to serve his household, and to manage his own affairs by himself. He says, “I am the son of a woman who used to eat salted and dried meat in Mecca.” This shows how modest he was.

﴾Verily, Allah does not like such as are proud and boastful.﴿

These are people who walk in pride and talk boastfully. This is made clear in Verse 6, Sura Albalad (Chapter 90):

﴾He says (boastfully): "I have wasted wealth in abundance!﴿

This person may boast of having spent millions on a wedding party or on his trips. The believer does not walk, move, or pose in pride. He does not boast about his status; on the contrary, he is completely aware of the favours that Allah bestowed on him. Pride is hollow, and we are all poor slaves and servants of Allah.

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