Q. What does that mean – establishing the Deen of Allah? Sounds a bit overwhelming, scary in fact, doesn’t it?
A. It is scary when you look at the enormity of it. It is overwhelming when you don’t fully understand what exactly Allah’s Deen is and how it is established in people’s lives and in their world. But it is most reassuring and comforting when you understand three things.
Firstly, it is the most natural and beautiful thing you can do in this world – help people to be better people; make this world a better place for all.
Secondly, you must know that working for Allah – and this business of establishing the Deen of Allah – is, nothing more or less or different from life itself. It is simply another name for living your life as best as you can – and helping everyone else around you to be able to do that.
Thirdly, it is an incremental, peaceful process. It is rooted in the hearts and minds – and souls – of the people. It is a question of working to change people’s hearts, minds, beliefs and behaviour – and to burnish their souls to enable them to open up to and reflect the light of Allah.
This process cannot be hurried. It requires a great deal of patience, perseverance, compassion, tact, sweetness, gentleness and caring.
And yet it is also a process that promises rich returns on your investment. That is because when people change, the world changes. And as the world changes, it helps more people to change along with it.
The process then becomes dialectical – people –world – people –world – people – world – and so on. And thus, before you realize it, the entire world has changed. It is bathed in the grace and mercy of Allah. However, you must constantly remind yourself, that changing hearts can be a slow, painstaking and difficult process. And also that there are some hearts, maybe, that were never meant to change.
Establishing the Deen of Allah, therefore, means working to make sure human beings increasingly come to seek Allah’s pleasure in all their efforts and to adopt Allah’s laws in all aspects of their lives.
For yourself and your family it means working hard to bring your own life in conformity with Allah’s laws – to make Allah your number one priority and the sole object of your earthly life and to make every other goal and purpose in your life subordinate to that one overarching purpose.
For others – for the rest of the world – it means working hard to persuade others to see things your way – the way of Allah and his Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam. In a sense, it means to be a perennial preacher of Allah’s message to a humanity alienated from Allah and its own roots.
This can be the most ennobling, fun-filled and exhilarating thing you ever did in your life. In fact, it is so energizing and empowering that it never lets you down; it never lets you retire; and it never allows you to run out of zest for life. Working for Allah gives you the ultimate joie de vivre.
Like always, and as with regard to everything else, establishing the Deen of Allah – Iqamat Deen – is also a concept that needs careful and ongoing review and analysis in the context of the time and place in which one lives.
I don’t have the time and resources to go into it in greater depth and detail at this time. But let me say very quickly what working for Allah does not mean: It does not mean a mindless or selfish race- or culture-based attempt to transfer political power, national territory and economic resources from non-Muslims to Muslims. It does not mean a power grab in behalf or for the sake of a certain ethnic or geographic group or a formula for domination of one ethnic group by another.
Q. How is working for Allah different from living one’s life as an ordinary, regular Muslim? And how is it different from being an ordinary human being for that matter?
A. It is not. As an ordinary human being you are still working for Allah. But you are doing so generally without knowing it. Often you are either in ignorance or denial about it or you simply refuse to acknowledge it openly and consciously and take responsibility for it.
On the other hand, when you live and act like a Muslim, you are working for Allah both consciously and unconsciously. You know and admit – at least you are supposed to – that you are working for Allah. When you let Islam embrace all aspects of your life, you are working for Allah the way you are supposed to. Otherwise, you are still working for Allah regardless of who you are and regardless of what you do.
Another way of putting it is this: If you are a good Muslim, you are a good worker or slave of Allah, and if you are a bad Muslim, then you are a bad worker and slave of Allah. If you are a Muslim only in name, then you are a worker or slave of Allah in name only.
If you think and claim and go about behaving as if you don’t work for Allah, then you are a runaway slave, even though there are aspects of your being that still work for Allah. When that happens – when you turn your back on Allah and become a runaway slave – there are all kinds of forces in the universe that go after you and track and document your every move. Everything in the universe turns into a set of powerful devices that shadow your every breath and record your every eye movement.
Therefore, it does not matter who or what you are, the important thing to know is that you are created by Allah to work for him. Allah says: The only reason I created human beings and Jinn are to work for me. Wa Ma Khalaqtul Jinna wal Insa Illa Liya’budun (Qur’an 51:56)
Q. What if I am not a Muslim? Then I don’t have to work for Allah, right?
A. Wrong. The fact is it does not matter whether you are a Muslim or a non-Muslim. If you are a human being, you are supposed to be working for Allah, full stop. And you are working for him anyway, in more ways than you think or realize – and with good reason. Who do you think you owe your whole life to?
Who do you think made you? Gave you your ears, your eyes, your body, your mind and the rest? Who gave you your wife, husband, children, parents – your entire family?
Who made the earth on which you walk and the heavenly bodies that hold the entire universe together so that it will be possible for you to enjoy life on earth? Who made the trees that give you oxygen? Who made the water that you drink?
So, if you got all these things from Allah, and got them all free and without lifting a finger, and then you decide to report to someone else for work, you have got your priorities mixed up, don’t you think? You are hired and paid by someone, and you go to work for someone else. Does that make sense?
Q. Which one do I do first: Make myself and my family perfect Muslims first or try to change the world, even though I am myself far from being perfect?
A. You try to do both at the same time. For, one cannot exist without the other. In this world, you need the chicken and the egg both at the same time. Remember it is not one after the other; it is both together. Often there is no other way.
Let me explain. There is no perfect linearity in life except in the lives of fortunate few or in the minds of armchair experts. By linearity I mean one thing coming systematically after another thing in an endless chain of neat succession. If we understand Islam clearly, and if we have a true Muslim temperament, we should know that Islam is a process and not a product.
That means you are struggling to be a Muslim all through your life, and you never quite know for sure whether you made the grade or not until you are dead and gone. So instead of looking at yourself as perfect and looking at everyone else as the opposite, start working on both at the same time – yourself and others. Thereafter, it is pretty much an interactive, dialectical process.
As for family, it is – like everything else – a blessing of Allah. Some have it; some don’t; and most people have it a little bit at a time – different aspects of it in different ways. Some are given the whole thing on a platter; some struggle for bits and pieces of it all their life and come up with an empty space at the end of the road.
So family is something that all of us have in different measures and degrees and forms and shapes. So if you have a “perfect” Muslim family, be grateful to Allah – for, Allah’s prophets Nuh and Lut did not – and work to make your family, along with yourself, even more perfect.
But – when Allah has put you in that privileged position of having a perfect Muslim family – don’t strut about looking down your nose on those whose families may not be as perfect as yours. Instead, with great humility dedicate yourself to helping those whose family situations are not so wonderful.
On the other hand, if you have a family that needs work – whose family doesn’t? – start working on yourself and your family with all possible diligence, devotion, commitment and humility. But don’t just spend all your time, energy and resources being trapped in your preoccupation with your family.
Ask yourself this: What would have happened to the world if Nuh Alaihissalam had waited around to convert his son first before he started talking to others?
What would have happened if Lut Alaihissalam had been disqualified on the basis that he had failed to produce a perfect Muslim woman out of his wife?
And where would the world be today if Ibrahim Alaihissalam was told by Allah to go and convert his father first before he did anything else?
Or, even, if our own beloved Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, had been charged, as his sole and primary duty, with the task of converting Abu Lahab and Abu Talib first – before he did anything else?
Let me give you a clue about human life – and Islam is all about human life. Life comes in packages – of different sizes, shapes, colors and compositions. And their contents vary a great deal. It is you and your family together; it is you and your neighbors together; it is you and your community together; it is you and your society together; and it is you and the world together.
Human life happens in a network of relationships and they are all closely intertwined. Your family is a key part of that network but by no means all of it.
Let me introduce an element of bio- and physiological stuff in this – of which perhaps you know more than I do. But tell me if I am wrong if I tend to look at the human body – organism is fine with me too – as a network of bio-physiological systems.
Each system is a collection of subsystems. In some ways, each system works almost independently of the other, and yet all systems and their subsystems work with a great deal of coordination, feedback, balance and harmony. For example, the digestive system; the respiratory system; the nervous system; the urinary system; the circulatory system; the muscular system; the skeletal system… and so on.
Am I right in any of this? If I am, I also suspect these systems and subsystems all work pretty much at the same time… concurrently. They are not linear in their function. You don’t go for example, let my stomach digest the chicken Biryani first then I will give it some hot tea to work on. And, you don’t say, while that is happening, hold all mental processes and muscular movements and skeletal activities. Let us do first things first – one thing at a time.
That is the nature of this thing we call life. In life, things pretty much happen all at the same time. They happen simultaneously – all at the same time.
Now, that is how it works when it comes to some other aspects of our life as well, such as our efforts to reform and improve our own individual lives; our struggle to make our family lives better; our commitment to work to make our neighborhoods better in the name of Allah; and our commitment to struggle forever to make the entire society better using the message and method of La Ilaha Illa Allah – No God but God.
These are all systems and subsystems of the same basic human process of living our life on earth in a personal, social, economic, political and cultural sense.
It is not one after the other; it is all at the same time. That is the nature of life.
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