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Audio Ethical Triangle of Islam

Ethical Triangle of Islam
8/27/2011 - Religious - Article Ref: IC0510-2830
Number of comments: 10
By: Mohammad Omar Farooq
IslamiCity* -

Taqwa, Ramadan and the Quran: The Triangular Link of Our Ethical System

Most of us have encountered many months of Ramadan in our life. Unfortunately, it is a reality that our lives most often have not been touched or affected by this month of fasting, even though every ceremonial aspect of Islam - that is, Ibadah in a limited sense - has special purpose and significance. Indeed, there is no aspect of Islam that is without a purpose or significance. It is either the lack of understanding or negligence to understand that renders our Ibadah into mere rituals. One reason that explains the stagnation of our individual and collective Muslim life is our weakness in building our life in light of the "purpose and significance" of Ibadah.

There is purpose behind every single act of creation of God. "Not without purpose did We create heaven and earth and all between!" [Quran 38:27]. In the context of this purposeful creation, God desires to see the entire human life on the foundation of Ibadah. "I have only created Jinns and human beings, that they may offer their Ibadah (to Me)."
[Quran 51:56] If this purpose or goal-orientation does not affect our lives, then stagnation is unavoidable.

Ibadah is for the entire life of a human being. It is critical to our understanding that there are five pillars of Islam - Shahadah (witnessing), Salat (prayer), Zakat, Siyam (fasting) and Hajj. It is on these pillars the Islamic way of life rests. This way of life derives its dynamism from these five pillars. Whenever these five pillars are alienated from the overall context of human life and its purpose, Ibadah is bound to be nothing more than rituals. 

Such Ibadah does not carry the golden touch. The hue of such Ibadah cannot help the environment to bloom in its full color. One does not hear through such Ibadah the inspiring melody of the Aakhirah-bound life.

The main theme of this article is Taqwa (God-consciousness) - a theme that has a triangular connection in terms of our ethical and moral system.

First, God has sent the final revelation - the Quran - for the guidance of humankind. Hence, the Quran is the guidance (Huda') for us. "This is the Book - in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who are (Muttaqoon) God-conscious."
[Quran 2:2]. Therefore, the Quran is not merely for accumulating bits of rewards (thawab), but for using as comprehensive guidance for human life and for solving the problems in our Aakhirah-bound life in this world. But to make use of the Quran as guidance, one needs some basic capital, and that capital is Taqwa (God-consciousness). That is why the Quran is the guidance, but effectively only for those who are (Muttoqoon) (God-conscious).

Secondly, God has not only revealed to us His expectation about us, but He has also informed us about how to fulfill His expectation. It is for this reason God has not only required a minimum level of Taqwa, but also has shown us the way to attain and improve our Taqwa. The five pillars of Islam have five distinctive, but complementary roles. Achieving Taqwa is intimately related to one of those five pillars: Siyam (fasting). "O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may attain Taqwa (God-consciousness)."
[Quran 2:183]

Thirdly, As fasting is not merely a ritual, attaining Taqwa is not also a pursuit without a purpose. Thus, the third of the triangular link of ethical/moral system is the special month of Ramadan, which God has designated for the prescribed month of fasting. The significance of this link has been clearly identified in the Quran. "Ramadan is the (month) in which we sent down the Quran, as a guide to humankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). Se every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting...."
[Quran 2:185]

The above-quoted verse helps establish the triangular link. God has revealed the Quran for our guidance. A basic prerequisite of benefiting from the divine revelation in the Quran is a minimum level of Taqwa. As a means and method of attaining Taqwa, God has chosen fasting as one of the five pillars of Islam, and He has chosen that very month as the month of fasting which is intimately related to the revelation of the Quran.

Therefore, to be a Muslim or to believe in Islam inevitably implies that, upon due inquiry and due diligence, we should accept the Quran as a complete, indivisible, final and balanced source of guidance for our life and sincerely endeavor to subject our entire life to this source of guidance. Also, to effectively benefit from the Quran, we have to have consistently increasing Taqwa. Hence, we should welcome this month of fasting, Ramadan, as a means to attaining and improving our Taqwa.

How fasting enhances Taqwa will be a subject of another article. However, the noble Prophet has clearly and beautifully explained the significance of fasting in numerous Hadith, such as: "God has no interest in any person's abstention from eating and drinking, if that person does not give up lying and dishonest/indecent actions"
[narrated by Hadhrat Abu Hurrah in Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 3, #127]. One should note that the benefit of such avoidance of lying and dishonest actions is not limited to Muslims alone. In another Hadith, we have been warned about the possible ritualization of Salat (prayer) and Siyam (fasting). Hadhrat Abu Hurairah narrated: "There are some people who fast, but their fasting is nothing more than abstention from food, and there are many who pray (at night), but whose praying is no more than being awake at night" [Musnad Ahmad, Vol. 2, #9698].

Unfortunately, in spite of the fact that the teachings of Islam are so unambiguous and that every aspect of Islam has a purpose within a unified and comprehensive way of life, our Muslim identity and life are so deviated. That is why the month of fasting comes and goes in our life, yet the purpose for which God has made fasting incumbent in the month of Ramadan - the link between our Ibadah and life, on one hand, and that purpose of fasting, on the other - does not develop. The resulting condition in our individual lives then is reflected in our collective life as well.

As Muslims, not every one of us but, many do fast. However, for even those who fast, it seems that the critical connection between our life and ever-increasing Taqwa rarely is made. Often a gap remains even in the life of those who sincerely and meticulously perform the ritualistic aspects of Ramadan. This gap is in terms of our failure, both at the individual and collective level, to utilize the Quran as Huda (guide) in our life and to embrace the month of fasting as a period to build and improve our commitment to take this guide and use it to channel our Aakhirah-bound life to a dynamic, constructive, and practical direction.

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