Just now I had the opportunity to talk to a friend about how relevant Islam is at this age. He mentioned that the weakness of religion is that it fails according to the needs of modern society. Being a Muslim, I explained to him my point of view.
I have a disclaimer, though. What I’m going to write about is what I understand about the beauty of Islam. It covers some aspects of Islam that I could put out in writing at this moment. It is, in no way, a summary of what Islam is about, more of a glance of things that we learn throughout the way.
As mentioned in the Quran, in Surah (the chapter) Al Kahfi, verse 109, translated as follows:
Say, “If the sea were ink for (writing) the words of my Lord, the sea would be exhausted before the words of my Lord were exhausted, even if we brought the like of it as a supplement”.
There are a few interpretations of this verse. One of it is, if we were to expand the words of Allah SWT in the Quran, to explain the vast knowledge in it, ink as much as the seven oceans would not be enough to explain them. Even if we add another world of oceans, the ink would not be enough. Hence this article should only be taken as a glimpse about Islam.
Please correct me if I’m wrong in any way.
In general terms, I could see it’s the nature of human beings to hold on to some spiritual beliefs or guidance, fulfilling of which would lead to peace of mind, even when one is faced with great calamity. For example, I work in a field where people are very ill, and death is a very familiar subject. Amongst the things that can fulfill our spiritual needs is prayers, or rituals, sometimes. Muslims and Christians would pray for their loved ones, Buddhists/Taoists (I’m not too sure) have their chanting, all of which I find will automatically change the environment from panic to calm.
Speaking of death, of course it is always relevant, because human beings are mortal, we all will leave this world sooner or later.
From Islamic perspective, we are taught that Islam is always relevant. Islam does not only consists of rituals and prayers, it is actually a way of life. Islam guides human beings how to live this life in relation to God as well as to other beings around them (be it human or not).
The two sources of Islamic knowledge is the Quran and the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad SAW (that is the examplary actions and words of our beloved Prophet Muhammad SAW). The Quran contains the words of Allah SWT, which was revealed in stages to Prophet Muhammad SAW between the years 610AD to 623AD via the angel Jibrail. Prophet Muhammad SAW is a human being, breathing and living the way we all do.
We are to live our lives based on the two sources of guidance, as mentioned by Prophet Muhammad SAW in his last sermon, which translates as follows:
I leave behind me two things, the Quran and my example (the sunnah), and if you follow these you will never go astray.
We are taught extensively about manners and good character (akhlak), for good manners is always relevant in this life no matter where we are. For example, we are taught even about the importance of a smile. As Prophet Muhammad SAW said, translated as follows:
Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr: “The Prophet never used bad language neither a ‘Fahish nor a Mutafahish. He used to say ‘The best amongst you are those who have the best manners and character.’ (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Virtues and Merits of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Companions, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 759)”
We are also taught about laws of life. The forbidden things like corruption, murder, suicide, adultery, extra-marital sex, taking what’s not yours, to name a few, are always and forever relevant.
The spiritual aspect, like I said, keeps us calm and contented no matter what happens to us, be it joy or tragedy.
Since I’ve spoken about the forbidden things, I should speak about what Islam encourages and how it’s relevant. Amongst some of the positive culture in Islam:
1. Islam encourages us to read (our first ever revelation)
2. Islam ignites curiosity and research in science and everything else under the sun (the first revelation also talks about the initial process of embryonic development). Science is not rejected in Islam. In fact, it is most welcomed as it would make our lives easier, on top of that, to be able to appreciate the amazing creations of God.
3. We are taught to love our parents, family, be kind to our neighbours, and be nice and respectful to women, love children and respect the elderly.
4. It is important that we take only what we need from the world and share the rest of our provisions.
5. It is a blessing to be gentle. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad SAW said:
Show gentleness, for if gentleness is found in anything, it beautifies it; and when it is taken out from anything, it damages it.
6. Islam encourages us to look for our own food and sustenance so that we don’t depend on others.
7. We are not to waste any kinds of resources at all even though we have them in abundance.
8. We are adviced to live in moderation, although we are encouraged to earn for our living as much as possible so that we could help the poor and the unfortunate. Islam advocates sharing with others whatever we are blessed with (money, knowledge etc).
9. It is good to be punctual
10. We should love the environment
11. We must fulfill our responsibilities no matter what they are.
12. We are encouraged to get involved in the society, mix around with other people, respect other religions.
13. It is from the example of Prophet Muhammad SAW that it’s good to play sports and eat healthy.
The list goes on and on, and there are numerous verses from the Quran and our Prophet Muhammad’s teachings, but those are too elaborate to put in here.
My friend further asked, whether there is any need for change of Islamic teaching to suit the current social global situation, or if there is any existing change or movement.
I went on to explain that there are no changes in principles of Islamic teachings (based on the Quran and the words/actions of Prophet Muhammad SAW). There is no change of the way we pray, fast, perform hajj etc. It has taught us the same basic guidance of life since all those years ago. The reason is that Islam is supposed to fit all mankind at all times. The contents of the Quran has been unchanged since more than 1400 years ago, and God has promised us that He will protect the contents until the end of the world.
We believe that Allah SWT has created us, therefore as the creator, He has given us the manual to live our lives by, which is the Quran. Prophet Muhammad SAW is the example on how the Quran should be lived by. The metaphor that people usually give is, a car is produced by a certain manufacturer. It will come with a manual. If you stick by the manual, you should be alright. But if you drive the car into the sea, disaster will happen. Similarly, by sticking to the Quran like a manual, we should not breakdown.
Of course, we apply the teachings in all aspects of our lives, including while on Facebook, if we post anything on YouTube or our blogs.
For example, we are taught in the Quran not to backbite each other. It applies whether we do it by talking about it, calling other people about it, put it on Facebook, Twitter or our blogs, it still is backbiting, no matter what form it is in. It is mentioned in the Quran, in Surah Al Hujurat, verse 12, translated as follows:
O you who believed, avoid much (negative) assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when he’s dead? You would detest it. And fear God, indeed, God is Accepting of Repentance and is Merciful.
The Prophet SAW is reported to have said:
‘Backbiting implies your talking about your brother in a manner which he does not like. If (that failing) is actually found (in him) what you assert, you in fact backbited him, and if that is not in him it is a slander.
Certain themes regarding money are mentioned in a strict manner in the Quran, for example corruption, or cheating in business. The Quran also states that you have to be transparent in your business dealings, in your work. If you owe someone money, there must be documentation, who borrowed how much from whom. Must be paid exactly as it was. Relevant 1400 years ago? Yes. Relevant now? Of course.
As a summary, there are countless of examples on how Islam is relevant to our times. The teaching is rock solid, unchanged since it was introduced, but the application is dynamic to time, place and culture. We do have the space to interpret and apply the teachings in our lives. The intention of Quranic and Prophetic guidance is for human beings to live in harmony with each other, as well as with other God’s creation.
I would close this with the ending part of Prophet Muhammad’s final sermon, which translates as follows:
All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others, and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly.
*SAW is short for “sallallahu alaihi wasallam”, which means Peace Be Upon Him.