For many people religion is a problem; religion is a synonym of a long set of restrictions; religion is a natural enemy of freedom and individual liberties. Even for religious people religion is not always easy.
Now, is religion a problem or a solution? There’s not a clear-cut answer to that. The safest way to approach that question would be to say that religion is a set of solvable problems. Every soul must taste of death, and We try you with evil and with good, for ordeal. And unto Us ye will be returned. (21 : 35) But lo! with hardship goeth ease, Lo! with hardship goeth ease; (94 : 5-7) Allah will vouchsafe, after hardship, ease. (65 : 7) Even the best religious society, led by the best religious ruler, would go through problems, but they are solvable problems. Societies are tried just like individuals. An individual believer can lose his job, a society can suffer drought or an economic crisis. So what’s the use of religion if it will only add more problems to my problems? If I put that question bluntly, I will get nowhere. If I put it in good faith, as I said before, there’s room for discussion. God says: Thou knewest not what the Scripture was, nor what the Faith. But We have made it a light whereby We guide whom We will of Our bondmen. And lo! thou verily dost guide unto a right path, (42: 52) And if We willed We could withdraw that which We have revealed unto thee, then wouldst thou find no guardian for thee against Us in respect thereof. (It is naught) save mercy from thy Lord. Lo! His kindness unto thee was ever great. (17: 86-87) That means religion is a mercy, it is a divine favour, not a problem. Why should God bother to send thousands of prophets and messengers in so many languages to so many peoples over a long period of time? What’s the use for God to do that? Isn’t that a "problem" for God? When God says: Ah, the anguish for the bondmen! Never came there unto them a messenger but they did mock him! (36 : 30) Shall We utterly ignore you because ye are a wanton folk? (43 : 5) , what good would that add to God ? What interest would God have in prohibiting sex outside of marriage, for example? Yes, Islam says don’t do this, don’t do that. A lot of restrictions. But in this chapter I will focus on the do’s. Many people would love to move up from Islam to Iman to Ihsan. Many people would love to elevate their nafs from ammara to lawama to mutmaina. Many people would love to approach beauty and greatness in the light of the Word of God. Many people would seek godly solutions rather than lament over Satanic problems. But that’s the minority of the minority. God says: Whoso obeyeth Allah and the messenger, they are with those unto whom Allah hath shown favour, of the prophets and the saints and the martyrs and the righteous. The best of company are they! (4 : 69) That’s the Elite. And in this elite (the saints, asseddeeqoon) come immediately after the prophets and before the martyrs. Who are asseddeeqoon ? God says : And those who believe in Allah and His messengers, they are the loyal, and the martyrs are with their Lord; they have their reward and their light.. (57 : 19) (Translators have rendered here the Arabic word asseddeeqoon as the saints or the loyal.) At first sight those criteria do not appear to be unattainable. So can I be a seddeeq (a saint) ?
Let’s first see how al-muhsinoon (the good) are described in the Quran and then we’ll see whether you and I can attain that. Let’s just dream a bit !
And vie one with another for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for those who ward off (evil); Those who spend (of that which Allah hath given them) in ease and in adversity, those who control their wrath and are forgiving toward mankind; Allah loveth the good; (3 : 133-134) Who forsake their beds to cry unto their Lord in fear and hope, and spend of that We have bestowed on them. (32 : 16) The (faithful) slaves of the Beneficent are they who walk upon the earth modestly, and when the foolish ones address them answer: Peace; And who spend the night before their Lord, prostrate and standing. (25 : 63-64) The steadfast, and the truthful, and the obedient, those who spend (and hoard not), those who pray for pardon in the watches of the night. (3 : 17) Who are constant at their worship And in whose wealth there is a right acknowledged For the beggar and the destitute; (70 : 23-25) And to feed in the day of hunger, An orphan near of kin, Or some poor wretch in misery, And to be of those who believe and exhort one another to perseverance and exhort one another to pity. (90 : 14-17) And feed with food the needy wretch, the orphan and the prisoner, for love of Him, (Saying): We feed you, for the sake of Allah only. We wish for no reward nor thanks from you. (76 : 8-9) And let not those who possess dignity and ease among you swear not to give to the near of kin and to the needy, and to fugitives for the cause of Allah. Let them forgive and show indulgence. Yearn ye not that Allah may forgive you? Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (24 : 22)
Grosso modo, it’s all about gratitude towards God and solidarity between humans. The details may differ from one verse to another, but the major guidelines are the same. "Ihsan," as the Prophet (pbuh) said, "is that you should serve Allah as though you could see Him, for though you cannot see Him yet He sees you." How can I translate this into acts ? Well, the Quran answered this in the verses above. That’s what al-muhsinoon (the good) do. But suppose I can’t do that. For one reason or another, I can’t fast very often or worship God at night while people are sleeping, for example, and yet I aspire to be among al-muhsinoon. What can I do ? Well, if I can’t do what al-muhsinoon and asseddeeqoon (saints) do in terms of acts of worship I should not expect to get the wages they get or the special place they get near God. Playing in the school games is not like playing in the Olympic Games. However, I can still rise in my Iman and stand out in the Eyes of God. How ? I should have a strong faith, an unwavering faith. If I hear Is there any God beside Allah? (27 : 62) , my heart will say before my tongue NO ! I have to be among those Who have believed and whose hearts have rest in the remembrance of Allah. (13 : 28) That means I have to be anything but anxious , Fretful or grudging; (70 : 19-21) If I have a problem I implore God : and call on Him in fear and hope. Lo! the mercy of Allah is nigh unto the good. (7 : 56) In addition to praying I keep my duty to God. And whosoever keepeth his duty to Allah, Allah will appoint a way out for him, And will provide for him from (a quarter) whence he hath no expectation. And whosoever putteth his trust in Allah, He will suffice him. Lo! Allah bringeth His command to pass. Allah hath set a measure for all things. (65 : 2-3) If my prayers are not answered quickly, I presevere and keep hope. Such as are steadfast and put their trust in Allah. (16 : 42)
By doing so I discover things that I can only read about in the Quran and the Haddith. It’s my problems and how I see them solved by God, by the power of God, by the knowledge of God, that will show me whether this religion is about truth or about dogma. If I don’t have a problem, how will I know that ? And whosoever keepeth his duty to Allah, Allah will appoint a way out for him, And will provide for him from (a quarter) whence he hath no expectation. (65 : 2) Who can try that out ? It’s my personal experience (what I feel when I have a problem, what I do to solve that problem, how I do it) that will teach me on God better than any scientific or religious book. These are the signs that affect my life directly. If Allah touch thee with affliction, there is none that can relieve therefrom save Him, and if He touch thee with good fortune (there is none that can impair it). (6 : 17-18) And your Lord hath said: Pray unto Me and I will hear your prayer. (40 : 60) But lo! with hardship goeth ease, Lo! with hardship goeth ease; (97 : 5-6) Lo! Allah defendeth those who are true. (22 : 38) And whosoever keepeth his duty to Allah, Allah will appoint a way out for him, And will provide for him from (a quarter) whence he hath no expectation. And whosoever putteth his trust in Allah, He will suffice him. Lo! Allah bringeth His command to pass. Allah hath set a measure for all things. (65 : 2-3) And whatsoever ye spend (for good) He replaceth it. And He is the Best of Providers. (34 : 39)