By Maulana Hafizur Rahman Azami Omeri
To carry out our Islamic responsibilities in accordance with their relative importance in the Shariah is called “prioritising Islam.” It was the belief of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah that in the Shariah revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) all the expediencies of this world and the next have been taken care of.
There are two kinds of injunctions in the Quran:
a. Perform the Hajj and the Umrah for the sake of Allah 2:196
b. Prepare against (those who unilaterally break their treaties) whatever arms and cavalry you can muster so as to deter the enemies of Allah and your enemies (8:60).
Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam but it is an individual duty whereas enhancing our defence preparedness concerns the wellbeing and honour of the entire community. Unfortunately, our Ulama have spent their energies emphasising only the Hajj and Umrah. As a result today we find a multitude of people performing Hajj upon Hajj and Umrah upon Umrah. Had there not been quota restrictions possibly crores of pilgrims would have been permanently present in Makkah.
In stark contrast, the Quranic command of 8:60 – which is indispensable for the safety and security of Muslims – continues to be ignored by us. Neither was our attention drawn towards this verse nor did we have faith in the guarantee given by Allah for putting it into practice, namely, wa antum laa tuzlamoon (you will not be persecuted). The result is; Muslims are suffering everywhere in the world and their blood has become a valueless commodity. This is what happens when we get our priorities wrong.
The Prophet (PUBH) was very careful about the priorities in Islam. He always preferred a diplomatic course of action. For instance, he entered into a peace treaty with his Makkan enemies despite strong objections from Hazrat Umar. He instructed the Muslims to be the first to greet the Mushriks and to give them the right of passage when their paths crossed. It is one of the wisest teachings of Islam to act in accordance with the need of the hour which is evident in the Prophet’s (PUBH) pardoning of Abdullah ibn Obai, the leader of the Madinan Hypocrites and the foremost among the slanderers of Hazrat Aisha, because punishing him would have resulted in open rebellion by his followers with grave consequences for the nascent Muslim community in Madina.
To give another example, it was the desire of the Prophet (PUBH) to demolish the Kaaba and re-construct it on the original foundation laid by Hazrat Ibrahim but refrained from embarking on the project fearing a misunderstanding with his people. Once on being asked: “What is the best action?” the Prophet (PUBH) said: “To perform salah at the earliest time permitted.” But during summers he instructed Muslims to delay the Zuhr salah. Prayer leaders were also asked to show due consideration to the old and sick and the Prophet (PUBH) himself used to shorten the prayer when he heard a child crying. On another occasion he stopped a person from going on jihad when he learnt that his mother was sick and required his services.
According to a Hadees in Bukhari when Hazrat Aisha asked as to which among two neighbours deserves our benefaction when resources are limited, the Prophet answered: “The one whose door is nearest to you.” This Prophetic advice is applicable to all. But if we find our nearest neighbour doing well and the distant one in dire straits then giving the latter precedence over the former will by no stretch of imagination be considered a violation of the aforementioned hadees.
This is the real spirit of Islam. But we are often found transgressing it and therefore, guilty of pushing our community into the maelstrom of abject poverty. I would like to quote an eye-opening statement from Imam Ghazali to emphasise my point. Just look at what the Imam had said as far back as the fifth century!
“These rich people are very fond of spending their money on the Hajj. They perform the Hajj again and again sometimes even at the cost of their neighbours suffering in hunger. Abdullah ibn Mas’ud was absolutely right when he said; ‘During the last days of the world there will be a surfeit of people performing the Hajj unnecessarily. The journey will appear easy to them and there will be no shortage of funds. But they will return from the Hajj poorer without any real benefit. They will be travelling over deserts and open ground while their neighbour will be suffering deprivation. Neither will they empathise with him nor will they display civility.’
Abu Nasr writes that a man came to Bihr bin al-Haris and informed him that he was going on the Hajj and had also saved 2000 dirhams for the journey. Bishr asked him why he wanted to do the Hajj. When he replied that it was for the goodwill and approval of Allah, Bishr offered him if he would like to know of another method by which he can spend the 2000 dirhams and also be sure of Allah’s approval. The man agreed and Bishr advised him to distribute the money among ten debtors to relieve them of their burdens. But the prospective pilgrim remained unconvinced and said that he had an irresistible urge to travel. Bishr smiled and told him that when wealth is tainted the self urges a man to fulfill his desires.
On another occasion Bishr was told that a certain rich man fasts and prays a lot. His reply was that the rich man had forgotten his duties and that his real duty was to feed the poor and spend money on the deprived sections of the society. That would be any day better than non-obligatory fasts and salah. The rich man, Bishr pointed out, was exhibiting an outward show of piety when in reality he was busy earning wealth and keeping the needy deprived. (Ihya al Uloom Vol 3, p.351-352)”
Truth is hard and bitter to swallow. My pen was soaked in sweat just quoting Imam Ghazali. What would have been the cost of travel from Iraq to Hijaz during the Imam’s time? Yet he was concerned. Indeed, the Imam had drawn a true picture of contemporary Muslim attitudes centuries ago. Ihya al uloom is a well known scholarly work, but many read it as a sacred text without understanding or following it. We owe a debt of gratitude to Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi for drawing our attention to the aforementioned passages in Ihya al uloom.
A modern writer has remarked that a sum of one thousand million US dollars is required for social service and relief work in poor Muslims countries of Asia and Africa, but even a hundred million has been difficult to find despite sincere efforts. Yet billions of dollars are spent on Nafil Hajjs and Umrahs. (See Al Ibadah fil Islam, Yusuf al Qardawi, p. 87).
Therefore, if we are to elevate the status of our community high enough to lead the world then knowing our priorities in Islam is the only way forward. May Allah help us to think and act along these lines? Aameen!
Maulana Hafizur Rahman is an internationally renowned Islamic scholar and a visiting professor at Jamia Darussalam Oomerabad, Tamil Nadu. An Urdu version of this article appeared under the title Tarjeehaat-e-Deen in the May 2012 issue of Jamia Darusslam’s Urdu monthly Rah-e-Eitidal. Responses may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
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