Worship: Practices - ingenious teachings or revelations

Q715 :In every religion, worship practices have been established by some genius religious people. This is also true in the case of Islam. We do not have any detailed instructions regarding the way we should pray, but the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has taught us that. On what grounds, then do we say that the prayer or worship of a non-Muslim will not be accepted by Allah? May I also ask on what basis do we reject the theory of reincarnation? According to that theory, the reward or punishment of deeds in this life will determine the nature of our next life. This provides a good explanation for the differences in the standard of living, wealth, health and intellectual status of people. Please comment. It has been felt that when a religious discussion is felt to be inconclusive, we close the chapter by saying that there is some sort of interest known to Allah in a particular situation or that we are being tested by Allah. I hope to have an enlightening answer to my question.

A715 : It may be true that some religions were established by people of genius who looked into the situation prevailing in their community and felt that there was a pressing need for radical reforms. This might have led to the establishment of a certain code of ethics, which could have developed into some sort of religious belief. This is true of any creed or sect established after the advent of Islam. That is because the line of prophet-hood ended with the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). We may look differently at religions which go back in time to well before the birth of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the beginning of his message. Allah tells us in the Qur'an that He had sent prophets and messengers to other nations. He has named 25 of these, and told Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that He has chosen not to tell him of other prophets and messengers. He also states in the Qur'an that no nation or community has been that was not favored with a warner who called on them to believe in Allah and follow His guidance. Therefore, the major religions that preceded Islam and about which the Qur'an remains silent, such as Buddhism, might have had a divine origin, and their founders might have been prophets sent by Allah. We simply cannot be certain of that because Allah has chosen not to tell us. From what Allah has told us about the distortion that has crept into the messages of earlier prophets, we can say that such distortion was so extensive in some very early messages that it changed their character. Hence, Allah has chosen not to tell us about these, because such information would not serve any purpose. However, Allah has guaranteed to preserve the message of Islam, embodied in the Qur'an, and to make it immune to distortion of any type. The Qur'an remains in its original form, and it will remain so as long as human life continues, because it is the final message from Allah to mankind. If you are asked what makes any person a Muslim, you are bound to answer that to be a Muslim, a human being must believe that there is no deity save Allah and that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is Allah's messenger. That basic belief puts the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in a unique position, different from that of any reformer, or genius person who cares about the ills of society. In simple terms, he receives a message from Allah and conveys it to mankind, adding nothing to it and omitting nothing from it. His message is embodied in the revelations he receives from Allah. These revelations could either be in word and meaning, as is the case with the Qur'an, which is Allah's word revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and preserved as it has been revealed, without any change, amendment or modification; or he may receive revelations given to him in meaning, which he expressed in his own words, which took the form of the Hadith and the Sunnah. Therefore, when the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) gives us any instructions regarding our faith, these instructions are part of the revelations he has received from Allah and we are bound to obey him in order to earn Allah's pleasure. Reflect, if you will, on the following Qur'anic verses: "This fellow man of yours (meaning Prophet) has not gone astray, nor is he deluded, and neither does he speak out of his own desire; that which he conveys to you is but a divine inspiration with which he is inspired." (53; 2-4) Addressing the Prophet, Allah says in the Qur'an: "Upon you have We bestowed from on high this reminder (meaning the Qur'an) so that you may make clear to mankind all that has ever been thus bestowed upon them and that they may reflect." (16;44) "Whatever the messenger gives you, take it; and whatever he forbids you, refrain from it." (59; 7) These and similar verses make it absolutely clear that whatever the Prophet has taught us in respect of our religion originates from Allah. He added nothing on his own initiative. When it comes to matters of this world, the Prophet has clearly stated that his opinion does not carry any divine or religious authority. He often acted on the advice of his companions, particularly when the question in hand relied more on human experience. This means that when the Prophet has shown us how to pray, his instruction was part of the revelations he received from Allah. We, therefore, cannot introduce any modification or amendment to the way we pray. We cannot say that this is part of the Prophet's ingenuity. Intelligence and genius simply do not come into this. What the Prophet has taught us concerning the faith of Islam is part of the divine message which must be preserved in the original form. When we consider the teachings of other religions, we must look at these in the light of what Allah has revealed to His last messenger, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). That is because Allah wants His final message to be the guide for mankind, for the rest of time. We cannot place ourselves in a position of judgment on what Allah may or may not accept. Far be it from us to make any such claim. No one can interfere with Allah's will or with what He determines or accepts. Our reference, therefore, must remain what Allah has revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He says in the Qur'an: "The only true religion in the sight of Allah is man's self surrender to Him." (13; 19) He also says: "If anyone goes in search of a religion other than self-surrender to Allah, it will never be accepted from him, and in the life to come he shall be among the lost." (3;85) It is also to be noted in both verses, the term used in the original Arabic text for "self-surrender to Allah" is "Islam". This is due to the fact that the concept of self-surrender to Allah is the essence of the religion of Islam. Indeed, the word Islam means self-surrender. Since the message of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the final message which is based on this concept, then his way is the only one which is guaranteed to be acceptable to Allah. The concept of reincarnation is unacceptable from the Islamic point of view. When a human being is born, he comes into this life as pure, unencumbered with any past, or with the misdeeds of any previous life or former person. He does not shoulder any burden of any type. This life of ours cannot be seen as a first life in one case and a second life in another. We do not reap in this life the fruits of what we did in any previous life. We simply do not know about such previous life. We know that this life of ours is a test which determines our future in a life to come, in a world totally different from ours. It is true that people have different fortunes and lead different types of life. Some are tested with wealth and power, while others are tested with poverty and weakness. This fits with the design Allah has chosen for this world of ours. This design creates situations which are perpetrated or perpetuated by people's practices. It is because human beings turn their backs on Allah's guidance that they suffer a great deal of the injustice that prevails in this world. Had they implemented Allah's guidance, social justice would have been easily achieved. It is the injustice that is practiced by some and accepted by others that leads to much suffering. That injustice and suffering are part of what human beings do in this world. It is a fact that this life of ours is a test. But that should not be taken as the answer to every question. It should be taken as an incentive to pass this test by working for the implementation of Islam and the consequent betterment of the quality of human life. Similarly, we do not attribute any situation to an interest of Allah. What Allah has placed in this world is meant to serve the interests of human beings. Allah certainly has a purpose of His own with regard to the design of creation, but we attribute to that purpose things that are in the overall design of the universe and creation.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )